Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has travelled to Germany for political talks for the first time since Russia's attack on his country. "Already in Berlin," Zelensky tweeted early Sunday morning. "Weapons. Strong package. Air defense, reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security," he added – keywords for the possible topics of conversation in Berlin. Zelensky's exact program was not initially disclosed for security reasons. However, there was speculation that the guest from Kiev will be received by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).
On Sunday afternoon, the Charlemagne Prize for European Merit, awarded to Zelensky and the Ukrainian people in December, will be awarded in Aachen. The explanatory statement emphasized Zelensky's role in repelling Russia's war of aggression: he was not only the president of his people and the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army. He is "also the motivator, communicator, the engine and the link between Ukraine and the great phalanx of supporters".
Green parliamentary group leader Britta Haßelmann told the German Press Agency that Europe wanted to set an example with the award: "We stand by the side of the Ukrainians." There will be no slackening in support for Ukraine – "humanitarian, economic and with weapons". North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) spoke of a "strong signal in times of war". "With President Volodymyr Zelensky, a determined fighter for the values of a free Europe will be honoured in Aachen."
Last year, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and two comrades-in-arms received the Charlemagne Prize, and in 2021 Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis are also award winners. The Charlemagne Prize is not endowed with any prize money.
First trip to Germany since the beginning of the war
In Germany, Zelensky was last at the Munich Security Conference a few days before the start of the war in February 2022. For the first ten months after the Russian invasion, he had not left the country at all. He changed that at the end of last year. In the meantime, the Ukrainian president has already been to Washington, Warsaw, Paris, London, Brussels, Helsinki and The Hague.
After the start of the war, Zelensky accused the German government of hesitation in supplying weapons to Ukraine. At the latest since the promise of Leopard 2 main battle tanks, however, this has subsided. Germany is one of Ukraine's most important supporters – both militarily and financially. Since the beginning of the war, the German government has approved arms deliveries worth 2.75 billion euros.
New weapon package from Berlin
The visit to Germany was prepared with the promise of further military support for Ukraine worth an additional 2.7 billion euros. Among other things, 20 more Marder infantry fighting vehicles, 30 Leopard 1 tanks and four Iris-T SLM anti-aircraft systems are to be provided by the German defense industry, the Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday.