Ukraine's Zelensky seeks support in Germany and France

AFP/The Local
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Ukraine's Zelensky seeks support in Germany and France
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Berlin on Friday to sign a security deal and seek desperately needed support for his country's battle against Russia.


Zelenksy started key visits to Germany and France as his forces struggled to hold off Russian attacks on the frontline city of Avdiivka. The military has said it is critically short of ammunition and shells.

The Ukrainian leader said on Telegram that he would discuss "a new security architecture for Ukraine". He also released photos of his arrival in Berlin.

Kyiv was trying to "end the war as soon as possible on fair Ukrainian terms," wrote Zelensky, who was to head to Paris later Friday to sign a similar security pact.

With the Ukraine war about to enter a third year, the president was to make a new plea for sustained help on financing and armaments at the Munich Security Conference, where leaders like US Vice President Kamala Harris are to gather.

It came as tributes were paid to fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, after he was reported to have died in a Russian prison.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recalled occasions when he had spoken with Navalny about the "great courage" that prompted him to return to Russia after recovering in Berlin from a poisoning attack.

"He has now paid for this courage with his life," said Scholz.

Lock down security agreements

Zelensky's European tour comes at a critical time as Ukraine faces mounting pressure on the eastern frontlines because of ammunition shortages and fresh Russian attacks.

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Fierce fighting raged around beleaguered Avdiivka, on the eastern frontline, which has become a main Russian target ahead of the February 24 invasion anniversary.

The long-term future of billions of dollars of Western aid is meanwhile in doubt, with the biggest contributor, the United States, in the throes of an election year.

A possible $60-billion package of military aid has been held up in Washington since last year because of wrangling in Congress.

The EU has also admitted that it will only be able to make good on half of the one million artillery shells it promised to send by March.

In Berlin and Paris, Zelensky will seek to lock down security guarantees for his country when the war is over.A bilateral pact to be signed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Zelensky would cover Ukraine's "long-term security commitments and support".

The French presidency confirmed that a security agreement would be signed on Friday evening, but did not provide any specifics on its content.


War fatigue

Plans by G7 nations to provide Ukraine with long-term defence support were made on the sidelines of the NATO summit last July. Alliance leaders failed, however, to set a timetable for Ukraine to join the bloc.

A first agreement had been signed with Britain in January, during British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's visit to Kyiv.

But more immediately, Zelensky will seek to shake off any war fatigue besetting his allies.

Besides meeting Harris on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich conference, talks are also planned with the leaders of the Czech Republic, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

While Ukraine was once the main conflict on the minds of world leaders, Israel's war on Hamas and the ensuing escalating crisis in the Middle East now also require urgent attention.

By Andrea PALASCIANO with Hui Min NEO in Munich



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