Jan 10 (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise visit to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on Tuesday, promising more weapons as well as “offers concrete actions” to help Ukraine join the European Union.
In a statement ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Baerbock expressed Germany’s solidarity with Ukrainians living through the Russian invasion and harsh winter conditions.
“This city is a symbol of the absolute madness of the Russian aggression war in Ukraine and the endless suffering that people, especially here in the east of the country, face every day,” she said. .
After Germany promised last week to send Marder combat vehicles to Ukraine as part of increased military support, Baerbock promised more weapons, without specifying which ones.
“In Kharkiv we can see the courage, the resilience and therefore the hope for a life in peace,” Baerbock told a press conference after his arrival.
Top Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, echoing Moscow’s line that he launched the war to “denazify” Ukraine, said history would judge Baerbock’s comments harshly.
She “unfortunately cannot hide her sympathy for the reincarnation of Nazism in the Ukrainian project and her clearly nostalgic notes,” he wrote on Telegram. Slutsky heads the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the Duma parliament.
Kuleba reiterated Ukraine’s long-standing call for tanks and said he had no doubt Berlin would eventually give Kyiv the coveted Leopard 2 tanks.
“I think the German government also understands somewhere deep in its soul that this decision will be approved and the tanks will be given to Ukraine,” he said.
Kuleba added that dragging his feet on the issue was costing lives, but also thanked his German counterpart for his help so far.
Baerbock also said it was important not to lose sight of Ukraine’s place in Europe and its desire to join the EU.
“As a government, we want to make very concrete offers to Ukraine in order to make progress in strengthening the rule of law, independent institutions and the fight against corruption, as well as in aligning with the standards of the EU,” she said.
She said Germany would provide 20 million euros ($21.47 million) for demining efforts and another 20 million euros to boost Ukraine’s access to Starlink internet terminals.
($1 = 0.9314 euros)
Reporting by Alexandre Ratz; additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk and David Ljunggren; written by Matthias Williams; Editing by Paul Carrel, Josie Kao and Cynthia Osterman
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