Zelensky signs ‘historic’ security pact with Germany


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a security deal with Germany on Friday in Berlin, hailed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz as a “historic step” amid Kiev’s raging battles against Russia.

Zelensky will also seal a similar deal with France later Wednesday, as he seeks to shore up help for his forces, who are struggling to hold off Russian attacks on the frontline city of Avdiivka.

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 U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris are to gather.

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.

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

No details have emerged yet on the bilateral pact signed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Zelensky, with Germany saying only that it would cover Ukraine’s “long-term security commitments and support”.

But Scholz said the signing of the deal was “a historic step”.

“Germany will continue to support Ukraine against Russia’s war,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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 

G7 nations flagged plans to provide Ukraine with long-term defence support 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 Kiev.

Zelensky is seeking 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.

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

Both conflicts will dominate the Munich conference, on and off stage.

 Mideast in focus 

Israel’s President Issac Herzog, Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Jordan’s King Abdullah II count among 180 dignitaries at the conference.

The U.S. and a small group of Middle Eastern nations could use the opportunity to float their ideas for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians with European counterparts on the sidelines, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Mediators are also currently racing to secure a truce on the ground and the release of hostages before Israel proceeds with a full-scale ground incursion into the Gaza Strip’s far-southern city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped.

In another closely watched encounter, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

The tone of the talks could offer a hint into the current mood between China and the United States, after an extremely fraught period over a host of issues from tensions over Taiwan to trade and human rights problems.

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