BERLIN (AFP) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks yesterday with German leaders in his first visit to the country since the invasion, with Berlin offering emphatic support in the form of a huge new military package.
Zelenskyy’s trip comes as Kyiv is preparing a much-anticipated counter-offensive and follows a day of meetings in Rome.
Ukrainian forces have been training troops and stockpiling Western-supplied munitions and hardware that analysts said will be key to reclaiming territory captured by Russia.
Once accused of reticence in supplying military gear to Ukraine, Germany has since become a major contributor of tanks, rockets and anti-missile systems.
Zelenskyy was greeted by Germany President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bellevue Palace where he signed the guestbook before the pair headed into talks.
Zelenskyy then met Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who greeted him with military honours.
He is also expected to head to the western German city of Aachen, which is awarding him and the Ukrainian people the Charlemagne prize – an honour awarded for efforts to foster European unity.
Bild daily said Zelenskyy’s flight to Aachen on a German government plane would be secured by the air force.
Scholz, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki are due to attend the ceremony in Aachen.
A meeting with the European leaders could help prepare the ground ahead of an European Union (EU) summit in Reykjavik next Tuesday, followed by the Internation Group of Seven (G7) gathering of world leaders in Hiroshima, Japan.
Zelenskyy’s visit rounds off over a year of choppy relations with Germany, which is now one of Ukraine’s biggest armaments suppliers, but only after much pressure from Kyiv
In a clear show of its backing for Kyiv, Berlin on Saturday said it would send Ukraine more firing units and launchers for the Iris-T anti-missile system, 30 additional Leopard 1 tanks, more than 100 armoured combat vehicles and over 200 surveillance drones.
“We all hope for a rapid end to this terrible war against the Ukrainian people, but unfortunately this is not in sight,” Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.
“This is why Germany will supply all the help that it can, for as long as necessary,” he said.
An adviser to Zelenskyy Mykhaylo Podolyak, hailed the announcement.