(Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Analina Berbock made a surprise visit to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv near the Russian border on Tuesday, promising more weapons along with “concrete offers” to help Ukraine join the European Union.
In a statement ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Berbock expressed Germany’s solidarity with Ukrainians living under the Russian invasion and harsh winter conditions.
“This city is a symbol of the sheer insanity of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and the endless suffering that people face every day, especially here in the east of the country,” she said.
After Germany last week promised to send Marder combat vehicles to Ukraine as part of increased military support, Barbock promised more weapons, without specifying which ones.
“In Kharkiv we can see courage, resilience, and therefore hope for a life in peace,” Berbock said at a press conference after her arrival.
Senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, echoing Moscow’s position that it waged the war to “discredit” Ukraine, said history would judge harshly on Berbock’s comments.
He wrote on Telegram that she “unfortunately cannot hide her sympathy for the embodiment of Nazism in the Ukrainian project and his obviously nostalgic remarks”. Slutsky chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the State Duma.
Kuleba reiterated Ukraine’s longstanding call for tanks and said he had no doubt that Berlin would eventually give Kyiv the coveted Leopard II tanks.
“I think the German government somewhere in the depths of its soul understands that this decision will be approved and that the tanks will be given to Ukraine,” he said.
Kuleba added that inaction on this issue costs lives but also thanked his German counterpart for the help so far.
Berbock also said that it is important not to lose sight of Ukraine’s position in Europe and its desire to join the European Union.
“We as a government want to make very concrete offers to Ukraine in order to make progress in strengthening the rule of law and independent institutions and fighting corruption, as well as in conformity with EU standards,” she said.
It 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 Alexander Ratz. Additional reporting by Dan Belichuk and David Leungren; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Paul Carell, Josie Kao and Cynthia Osterman
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