Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has held crucial meetings with German leaders in Berlin, shortly after Germany announced a $3 billion military aid package to help Kyiv in its fight against the Russian invasion.
“Already in Berlin. “Weapons. Powerful package. Air defense. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security,” Zelenskyy tweeted early on May 14, after arriving amid tight security from Italy.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed Zelenskyy at Schloss Bellevue, his official Berlin residence, where the two leaders were scheduled to hold talks along with four advisors each.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz greeted the Ukrainian leader with military honors at the chancellery before holding one-on-one talks.
Zelenskyy is also expected to travel to the city of Aachen to receive the prestigious Charlemagne Prize.
Zelenskyy expressed his thanks to Germany as he signed the visitor’s book at the German president’s residence.
“In the most challenging time in the modern history of Ukraine, Germany proved to be our true friend and reliable ally, which stands decisively side-by-side with the Ukrainian people in the struggle to defend freedom and democratic values,” Zelenskyy wrote.
On the eve of his arrival, Germany announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine worth more than $3 billion, including tanks, antiaircraft systems and ammunition.
“We all hope for a rapid end to this terrible war by Russia against the Ukrainian people, but unfortunately this is not in sight,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.
The package includes 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, 30 Leopard 1 tanks, 15 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, 200 reconnaissance drones, four additional Iris-T antiaircraft systems including ammunition, additional artillery ammunition and more than 200 armored combat and logistics vehicles.
Germany has been criticized by many in Ukraine for its reluctance to send heavy armaments to Kyiv for its battle against Russian forces. The latest aid package is Berlin’s largest since the invasion of February 2022.
Zelenskyy’s trip to Germany comes after the Ukrainian leader received vocal support on May 13 from Italian leaders in Rome and at the Vatican, where Pope Francis called for “humanitarian gestures toward the most fragile persons, innocent victims of the conflict.”
On the war front, at least one Russian SU-34 warplane and a military Mi-8 helicopter had crashed in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine, Russian emergency services were quoted by TASS news agency as saying, with several reports claiming the craft had been shot down.
Later, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that a Russian SU-35 jet and a second Mi-8 helicopter also crashed on May 13, but that report could not immediately be confirmed.
Ukraine did not comment on the reports. Kyiv normally does not comment directly on any incidents occurring within Russia’s borders.
If confirmed that the aircraft were shot down, it would represent a major coup for the Ukrainian military and an embarrassment for the Kremlin.
On the war front, Ukrainian forces intercepted and destroyed three missiles and 25 drones overnight in the latest aerial attack by Russian forces, Ukraine’s air force said on May 14.
Russia attacked “from different directions with Shahed attack drones, Kalibr missiles from ships in the Black Sea, [and] cruise missiles from Tu-95 strategic aircraft,” the air force said in a statement.
Russia has increased the number of missile and drone strikes since the beginning of May, which Ukrainian authorities attribute to Moscow’s fear of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Late on May 13, Russian missiles hit the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil, which is home to the electro-pop duo Tvorchi, this year’s contestants from Ukraine at the Eurovision 2023 Song Contest, local authorities said.
The attack came as the contest was under way in Britain because Ukraine, last year’s winners, could not host it due to the war.
The strike hit warehouses owned by commercial enterprises and a religious organization, injuring two people, local officials in Ternopil reported on Telegram.
Melinda Simmons, Britain’s ambassador to Kyiv, praised Tvorchi for their Eurovision entry.
“The staging was brilliant. And poignant as their university home town of Ternopil was targeted by Russian missiles this evening,” Simmons tweeted.