Ukraine demands 'true friend' Germany send weapons to ward off Russian invasion

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A member of the Ukrainian Legion navigates a grenade booby trap during a weekend training exercise outside Kyiv - Shutterstock
A member of the Ukrainian Legion navigates a grenade booby trap during a weekend training exercise outside Kyiv - Shutterstock

The Ukrainian government has demanded from Germany that it prove itself to be “a true friend” by delivering weapons to help avert the threat of war on its Russian border.

“The Ukrainian people are deeply disappointed. The moment of truth has now arrived to show who our true friends are,” Ukraine's ambassador to Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, said ahead of a visit by German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock to Kiev on Monday.

The new German government has ruled out weapons deliveries to the embattled east European country, even as Russia amasses over a hundred thousand troops on its border.

Asked in December whether she would consider arms supplies, Ms Baerbock replied that “further military escalation would not bring more security for the Ukraine.”

In comments made to the German Press Agency, Mr Melnyk described the German stance as “very frustrating and bitter,” adding that Europe faced the risk of “a huge war, the worst since 1945” in which Ukraine had “a sacred right to self defence.”

It came as Kyiv said 275 Russian military vehicles had arrived in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine to support Kremlin-backed forces there.

Ms Baerbock will meet with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday before travelling on to Moscow for talks with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov later in the day.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also demanded assurances from Germany ahead of the visit, saying that “no business interests and no desire to show understanding for Putin are worth allowing a bloody war in Europe.”

His comments appear to be a veiled reference to Germany’s natural gas deliveries from Siberia, which are set to be intensified with the imminent opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic, which circumvents Ukraine and Poland.

Some analysts say that Germany has made itself open to blackmail by Moscow due to its reliance on Russian gas as a central plank of its low-carbon energy strategy.

Ukraine demands 'true friend' Germany send weapons to ward off Russian invasion - CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
Ukraine demands 'true friend' Germany send weapons to ward off Russian invasion - CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

Germany’s centrist coalition, in power since December, is believed to be at odds over how to approach Russia, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz favouring a “reset” of relations.

Mr Scholz is reported to favour a return to the “Normandy format”, which commits Kyiv to semi-autonomy arrangements in its east that are unpopular with the Ukrainian population.

His two junior partners, Ms Baerbock’s Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, both favour a harder line against the Kremlin.

Free Democrat defence spokeswoman Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann said over the weekend that Vladimir Putin “only understands crystal clear statements, including potential consequences.”

“Putin is testing out how far he can go, he is leading the way and imposing the narrative that we have to concede,” Ms Strack-Zimmermann told AFP.

With the Berlin government sticking to a traditional policy of not delivering weapons to warzones, the Ukrainians can expect little in the way of military hardware.

Germany’s foreign affairs committee has raised the prospect of providing protective gear such as helmets and bulletproof jackets.

By favouring a softer approach on Russia, many in Germany fear that Mr Scholz is playing with fire.

“If Olaf Scholz continues like this, his policies will lead to a serious dispute with US President Joe Biden,” Bild, Germany’s highest-selling newspaper, warned this week.

“It has to be said clearly: anyone who now rules out cancelling Nord Stream 2 in the event of possible sanctions is declaring an end to Ukraine and paving the way for Putin's invasion.”

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