September 24, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Germany for its support during a meeting with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday in his first visit to the country since Russia’s invasion.

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Zelensky arrived in Berlin from Rome, where he met separately on Saturday with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis. The Pope indicated that the Vatican would help with the repatriation of Ukrainian children taken by the Russians.

He took off on a German government plane escorted into German airspace by Luftwaffe Air Force fighters, arriving in the middle of the night.

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“At the most challenging time in Ukraine’s modern history, Germany is proud to be our true friend and reliable ally,” Zelensky wrote in the German presidential guest book. “Together we will win and bring peace back to Europe.”

Zelensky was expected to meet later with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his security cabinet, before traveling to Aachen in West Germany to receive the prestigious Charlemagne Award in recognition of services to Europe.

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Germany, Europe’s largest economy, faced criticism at the start of the war for what some called a hesitant response, but has become one of Ukraine’s largest providers of financial and military aid.

The government on Saturday announced 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) in military aid to Ukraine, its biggest package since Russia’s invasion in February last year, and further support for Kiev as long as necessary. Promised.

Zelensky described it in a tweet as a “powerful package”, indicating that he aimed to discuss arms supplies as well as air defense, reconstruction, Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, and security with German officials. Had to do.

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Zelensky last visited Germany for the Munich Security Council in February last year, just before the start of the war.

Germany was constrained in its support of Ukraine at the time both by its energy dependence on Russia and by pacifism rooted in its bloody 20th-century history.

This required a major policy upheaval and change in mindset, which Scholz dubbed the “Zietenwende”, or turning of the era, in a landmark speech just days after the start of the war.