Germany, Netherlands to send heavy weapons to Ukraine

Germany, Netherlands to send heavy weapons to Ukraine

Berlin will support Kiev, but promises no shortcuts on the EU accession.

During a visit to Kiev, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that her country, along with the Netherlands, will provide Ukraine with state-of-the-art heavy weapons, including the Panzerhaubitze 2000, and will begin training for the Ukrainian military over the next few days. Baerbock, who was accompanying her Dutch counterpart, Wopke Hoekstra, said that Germany is giving Kiev the ability to protect its cities against future attacks in Ukraine before military training is complete, as part of the visit to Ukraine. She explained at a press conference with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, that the soldiers will be prepared to operate the equipment immediately after their return to the warzone from Germany.

Berlin's decision to send self-propelled Howitzers to Ukraine, announced three days ago by Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, was another U-turn in Germany's post-Nazi policy of not sending heavy weapons to war zones.

We will continue to support the European, free Ukraine. Baerbock said that humanitarian, financial, economic, technological, political and energy issues were also on the table.

Russia has warned the West not to pump up Ukraine with weapons, saying it will only lead to a prolonging of the conflict and long-term problems. Moscow made it clear that it would consider foreign weapons within Ukraine as legitimate targets.

During her surprise trip to the conflict-torn country, Baerbock said that Germany stands unchangeably on the side of the Ukrainians and free Kiev, but that she is happy not only to announce the reopening of the German embassy in the capital, but to be able to say free Kiev. The minister said that the minister had doubts about saying that phrase would be used in the dark days after February 24, when Russia launched the military operation. Germany is committed to continuing its pressure on Russia, as the EU considers its sixth package of sanctions against the aggressor, according to Baerbock. She said that we are reducing our dependence on Russian energy to zero with all consistency and forever.

The German minister had some disappointing news for Ukraine. There would be no shortcut to EU accession, and there should be no empty promises on the way forward, according to Baerbock.

During her visit to Ukraine, Baerbock was welcomed by President Volodymyr Zelensky. Hoekstra also attended the meeting.

On Wednesday, Baerbock visited the battle-scarred Kiev suburb of Irpen and the town of Bucha, the site of alleged atrocities against civilians that Kiev attributes to Russian forces. Moscow denies the accusations and says they are part of a Ukrainian smear campaign against its military.

Russia attacked the neighboring state after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it plans to retake the two republics by force.