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Germany's Habeck visits Ukraine on surprise trip

April 18, 2024

The German vice chancellor's arrival in Kyiv comes as Ukraine struggles to defend itself against constant Russian aerial attacks. Habeck met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the visit.

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (right) with German Ambassador to Ukraine Martin Jäger (left)
Habeck's trip comes as Ukraine is in dire need of foreign assistance to fend off daily Russian attacks Image: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck arrived in Ukraine on Thursday on a surprise trip.

The visit comes as Russia carries out daily air attacks on Ukraine, targeting Ukrainian infrastructure such as power stations in particular.

Why is the trip taking place?

Upon his arrival at Kyiv train station, Habeck said his visit comes as Ukraine needs every bit of support it can get to fight for its freedom.

"It is indeed a fight for freedom," Habeck said. "Yes, Ukraine is fighting for its self-determination, for its territorial integrity against Putin's aggression, but it is also a fight for the values that unite and make up Europe." 

"The situation is certainly challenging, but the Ukrainians have managed to hold their own time and again over the past two years," Habeck said. "What Germany can do to support them, it will do."

Habeck laid flowers at a memorial wall for fallen Ukrainian soldiers. Later in the day, he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yulia Svyrydenko.

Habeck tells DW he's optimistic 'Moscow can be stopped'

Speaking to DW on Thursday, Habeck said he was optimistic that Moscow "can be stopped."

"They [Ukrainian forces] need air defense systems, more air defense systems," he said. "This is something the president asked me. Germany delivered another Patriot system, and we are doing that as a first move to ask others and to give an example that everyone can do a little more."

Zelenskyy also thanked Berlin for its continued support for his country in his daily video address later Thursday.

"We appreciate Germany's leadership role, which helps not only us in Ukraine to protect lives, but all of Europe itself —  to preserve the very Europe that knows how to live peacefully, knows the law and knows how to take care of people," Zelenskyy said.

He said they discussed the situation on the front lines and the particular need for air defense systems.

German support to Ukraine

Helmut Rauch, head of Germany's Diehl Defence, which manufactures the IRIS-T air defense systems, was among a German business delegation accompanying Habeck. Diehl has so far supplied Kyiv with three IRIS-Ts.

Habeck is also Germany's economic affairs minister. His visit is partly in preparation for the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin in June, which will center on the reconstruction needs of Ukraine due to Russia's war. 

Habeck said there was "very great interest from German companies to come and produce and build partnerships in Ukraine," with the country on a gradual path closer to the EU's Single Market.

He added that Ukraine is "a big country, one of the largest countries in Europe, with a well-educated, young population. That also offers ideal partnerships from an economic perspective."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Cabinet last week approved a 15-point plan for the economic reconstruction of Ukraine.

The package of measures included financial subsidies and low-interest finance for small and medium-sized companies in Ukraine, as well as investment guarantees for German companies.

Russian threat keenly felt in Ukraine, and beyond

Ukraine faces an increasingly difficult situation in its war to repel Russia's invasion. For months, Kyiv has repeatedly appealed to its allies to provide more ammunition and more resources for air defense. Meanwhile, the Russian army has recorded a series of territorial gains in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.

Habeck is expected to travel on to Moldova to meet Prime Minister Dorin Recean. The country's pro-Western leadership is striving to join the EU and sees Moldova, which borders on Ukraine, as also facing a security threat from Moscow.

rc/wd (dpa, DW) 

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