Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday
On his first visit to the nation since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday and commended his government for its “fantastic solidarity” as he won a significant increase in military supplies.
Zelenskiy arrived in Berlin on Saturday after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis in Rome. He arrived in the middle of the night in a German government plane escorted across German airspace by Luftwaffe fighter fighters.
Zelenskiy’s appreciation for Germany’s support was noted as he signed the guest book of the German presidency during his visit to the country. He also expressed confidence that the two countries could work together to restore peace to Europe amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Zelenskiy’s comments highlighted the importance of international partnerships and cooperation during difficult times.
The Ukrainian leader, dressed in his customary khaki combat trousers and a black jumper, was received with military honors by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before proceeding to the chancellery to meet with Scholz.
He was scheduled to conduct a press conference with Scholz before traveling to Aachen, West Germany, to accept the coveted Charlemagne prize for services to Europe.
Germany, Europe’s greatest economy, was chastised at the outset of the war for what some saw as a reluctant response, but it has now become one of Ukraine’s main financial and military aid sources.
The German government has announced its most significant military aid package yet to Ukraine, amounting to 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The aid package includes 30 Leopard tanks, fighting vehicles, reconnaissance drones, and Iris-T air defense systems that are essential to protect Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure from Russian missile attacks.
Ukrainian President Zelenskiy expressed his appreciation for this aid package, describing it as “powerful” in a tweet. During his visit to Germany, Zelenskiy intends to discuss various topics with German officials, such as the supply of weapons and air defense systems, reconstruction efforts, Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, and security matters.
Overall, this aid package and the discussions between Germany and Ukraine emphasize the importance of international cooperation and support during times of crisis.
Due to heavy security surrounding his visit, Berlin’s government area ground to a halt early on Sunday, with some public transit stopped, helicopters spinning overhead and snipers on rooftops.
Zelenskiy’s last visit to Germany was for the Munich Security Council in February 2022, just before the war broke out in Ukraine. At that time, Germany was limited in its support for Ukraine due to its reliance on Russian energy and its reluctance to engage in military conflict due to its violent history in the 20th century.
However, Germany has undergone a significant policy shift and a change in mindset towards supporting Ukraine, which Scholz referred to as a “turn of an era” in a major speech shortly after the war began.
At the height of tensions, Ukraine’s then-ambassador Andriy Melnyk accused Scholz of being uncooperative and likened his behavior to that of an “offended liver sausage” when he initially declined Zelenskiy’s invitation to visit Kyiv.
Germany faced criticism from allies earlier this year for its initial reluctance to send battle tanks to Ukraine, with officials from central and Eastern Europe expressing disappointment in the country’s leadership. However, Germany has pushed back against these criticisms and emphasized its commitment to providing aid and weapons to Ukraine.
According to Oleksii Makeiev, the current Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, the country is now taking on a greater leadership role in supporting Ukraine. Even though Russian gas made up around half of Germany’s gas imports in 2021, the country no longer directly imports gas from Russia. Additionally, Germany has welcomed approximately 1 million Ukrainian refugees.
Overall, Germany’s actions highlight its willingness to support Ukraine in its time of need and take a leadership role in the region, despite challenges such as energy dependence on Russia.