Ukraine PM thanks Germany for solidarity and calls for more weapons

Denys Shmyhal’s comments on visit to Berlin show easing of tensions over response to Russian invasion

Ukraine’s prime minister has thanked Germany for its solidarity in the face of the Russian invasion while calling for more weapons, in a sign of easing tensions between Berlin and Kyiv.

Denys Shmyhal, who was welcomed by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, with military honours in Berlin on Sunday, is the most senior Ukrainian official to visit the German capital in months, since Kyiv accused the EU’s biggest economy of doing too little.

Starting his Berlin trip, Shmyhal met the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was blocked from visiting Kyiv in April because of his past advocacy of strong German-Russian ties. Steinmeier, a former German foreign minister, who conceded in April that his approach to Moscow had been mistaken, offered to travel to Ukraine’s capital in the early weeks of the war to show solidarity but was told his visit was “not desired in Kyiv”.

In a tweet after the meeting with Steinmeier, Shmyhal said they had discussed the military situation, strengthening sanctions and the need to provide weapons for Ukraine. “Thanked for solidarity with Ukrainians and support,” the tweet said.

Germany will “continue to stand reliably by Ukraine’s side”, Steinmeier told Shmyhal, according to the German president’s spokesperson.

“Germany has made huge progress in its support of Ukraine with weapons,” Shmyhal told German media before his trip, according to Agence France-Presse. But the prime minister added that Kyiv needed more from Berlin, including “modern combat tanks” such as the Leopard 2.

Writing on Telegram, Shmyhal urged allies to provide Ukraine with more heavy weapons. “The MARS II multiple rocket launchers and the Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled artillery units, which Germany has provided, have performed well on the battlefield,” he said, adding that he expected Germany to become one of the leaders in supporting Ukraine’s air defence.

The rapprochement between Kyiv and Berlin came as Scholz declared that Germany “will get through this winter”, as his government announced on Sunday a €65bn (£56bn) package to help households and companies cope with soaring energy prices. Scholz told local media that Germany would use income from windfall taxes to reduce end-consumer prices for gas, coal and oil.

Europe faces an energy crisis after Russia shut down gas flows from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline into Germany. Gazprom said on Friday that the pipeline – the largest gas pipeline to Europe with capacity to deliver 55bn cubic metres a year – would be shut indefinitely because of a leak and would not restart until repairs were completed. Siemens Energy, which supplies and maintains equipment to Nord Stream 1, said the leak could be sealed and there was no reason to shut down the entire pipeline.

In his nightly video address on Saturday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused Moscow of weaponising its energy supplies against European countries it cannot yet attack with missiles.

“Russia wants to destroy the normal life of every European – in all countries of our continent,” Zelenskiy said. “It is trying to attack with poverty and political chaos where it cannot yet attack with missiles.” The answer to this “decisive energy attack” was unity of European states and sanctions to limit Russia’s oil and gas revenues, he said.

With the war in its 193rd day, Ukrainian officials said an eight-year-old child died and three other children were injured by Russian overnight shelling in the southern Ukrainian region of Mykolaiv.

Russian forces hit multiple residential targets in the region, according to Vitaliy Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv. Posting on his Telegram account, he said Russian shelling had damaged homes, three hospitals, two education facilities, a hotel and a museum in the area.

Zelenskiy urged the EU to deliver a promised €9bn emergency financial aid package “asap”, he reported on Sunday in a tweet about a phone call he had with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. So far the EU has released only €1bn of the total because of wrangling over the balance between grants and loans. The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, said last week he was confident the EU would soon meet its promise, although Ukraine needs an estimated €5bn a month to keep going.

Ukraine’s prime minister said he expected €5bn in macrofinancial assistance from the EU this week, which will “help ensure the stability of our economy, support of the army and the passing of the heating season”.

Concerns remained high over Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is relying on a reserve line to supply electricity to the grid. In a statement on Saturday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the plant had again lost the connection to its last remaining main external power line, but continued to supply electricity to the grid via a reserve line.

The plant was occupied by Russian forces in March but remains connected to Ukraine’s electricity grid and run by Ukrainian staff.

After mounting concern about nuclear disaster, the IAEA inspectors arrived at the plant last Thursday with the aim of establishing a permanent presence.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Saturday that his country could play a facilitator role regarding the plant, Erdoğan’s office said.


Jennifer Rankin

The GuardianTramp

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