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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy inks French, German defense pacts

Published February 16, 2024last updated February 16, 2024

Ukraine's leader signed extensive security agreements during visits to Germany and France. It comes as fighting rages in the frontline town of Avdiivka.

Zelenskyy, Macron exchange documents after inking security pact
Macron told Zelenskyy during the Paris visit that he would visit Ukraine within weeksImage: Thibault Camus/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy signed off on "ambitious" security deal Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. 

The deal will last for 10 years and includes a French promise of up to €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in aid for 2024.  

Also on Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Zelenskyy signed a bilateral security agreement valued at €1.1 billion ($1.18 billion) to help in the fight against Russia's invasion.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military reported fierce fighting in the key frontline town of Avdiivka.   

This blog from Friday, February 18 is now closed form more on Russia's war in Ukraine click here.

Skip next section Zelenskyy signs security pact with Macron in Paris
February 16, 2024

Zelenskyy signs security pact with Macron in Paris

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed a security deal with France.

He traveled to Paris on Friday evening after signing a separate deal with Germany.

"It's an ambitious, very substantive security agreement ... We can't talk openly about all the details," Zelenskyy told reporters at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"Each of the agreements strengthens Ukraine in its own way," he said, comparing the deals reached with France and Germany.

The agreement, which is set to last for 10 years, includes a French pledge for up to €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in aid for 2024. Paris provided €2.1 billion last year and €1.7 billion in 2022.

Macron called for a European "resurgence" in the face of the threat from Russia. He said that European countries needed to be "lucid" about Moscow.

He said that Europe's future cannot depend on the outcome of a US presidential election. US presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump has said he could withhold security from NATO member states that do not spend enough on defense.

The French leader said that he would visit Ukraine in the coming weeks.

Macron and Zelenskyy said that the deal was aimed at helping Ukraine with the "re-establishment of its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders" and to prevent "any renewed Russian aggression."

They said that the agreement would pave the way towards Ukraine's membership in the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

"France affirms that a future Ukrainian membership would constitute a useful contribution to peace and stability in Europe," they said.

Skip next section Germany and Ukraine sign bilateral security agreement
February 16, 2024

Germany and Ukraine sign bilateral security agreement

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday signed a bilateral security agreement worth €1.13 billion ($1.22 billion) in Berlin.

Germany's defense ministry said the so-called "Munich Package" focuses on air defense and artillery and includes provisions of 120,000 rounds of 122-millimeter caliber ammunition and an additional 100 IRIS-T SLS missiles this year. 

Germany and Ukraine sign long-term security pact

Scholz called the agreement an "historic" step.

"Germany will continue to support Ukraine in the face of the Russian war of aggression," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius echoed Scholz's comments on the agreement being historic and said: "For the first time in its history, the Federal Republic of Germany is acting as a guarantor state."

Zelenskyy described the agreement as "an unprecedented document that guarantees German support for Ukraine in the amount of €7 billion for this year."

"I am grateful to Germany and all Germans for their solidarity with our country and people, as well as all the support and assistance," Zelenskyy added. 

The German agreement follows another signed between Britain and Ukraine in January.

Zelenskyy is expected to sign a similar agreement with France in Paris later on Friday.

Skip next section Avdiivka battle more difficult than Bakhmut, Ukrainian soldiers say
February 16, 2024

Avdiivka battle more difficult than Bakhmut, Ukrainian soldiers say

The battle for the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka is now tougher than the months-long battle for Bakhmut, which Russia captured in May, according to a brigade fighting in the area.

"It was difficult there (in Bakhmut), but now it is extremely difficult," 3rd Assault Brigade spokesman Oleksandr Borodin said in televised comments, adding that the situation had become "more difficult" because Russian forces were now better equipped.

The 3rd Assault Brigade was sent as reinforcements to the frontline town of Avdiivka, a key target for Moscow ahead of the second anniversary of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

Running out of ammunition and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukraine may be forced to retreat from the eastern city, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian onslaught.

Skip next section Lukashenko says 'saboteurs' detained on Ukraine border
February 16, 2024

Lukashenko says 'saboteurs' detained on Ukraine border

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that several "saboteurs," including Ukrainian and Belarusian nationals, had been arrested were arrested early Friday on the border between the two countries in a "anti-terrorist operation."

Speaking at an event in Minsk, Lukashenko said the detainees had "crawled across our border and transported explosives to commit sabotage, primarily in Russia and Belarus." He did not say how many had been arrested.

Later in his speech, Lukashenko said that similar groups had been detained were being arrested "two or three times a week."

Belarus, a close Russian ally, provided territory and logistical support for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Skip next section Zelenskyy arrives in Berlin to rally allies behind Ukraine
February 16, 2024

Zelenskyy arrives in Berlin to rally allies behind Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Germany on a visit aimed at garnering Western support for his embattled troops ahead of the second anniversary of the war.

Zelenskyy posted photos of his arrival in Berlin on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying he would discuss "a new security architecture for Ukraine." He added that his country was trying "to end the war as soon as possible on fair Ukrainian terms."

Zelenskyy is also due to visit Paris on Friday. Germany and France are expected to sign bilateral agreements on security commitments with Ukraine as Zelenskyy visits their respective capitals.

Skip next section EU must double military aid to Ukraine to compensate for possible US pullout, report says
February 16, 2024

EU must double military aid to Ukraine to compensate for possible US pullout, report says

The European Union would need to double its military funding to Ukraine to fill a gap left by a possible US withdrawal, the Germany-based Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) said in its new report.

"It is highly uncertain whether the US will send further military aid in 2024," the researchers said in report on the state of play of military, financial and humanitarian aid to the war-battered country since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.

As of January 15, the United States has pledged military aid to Ukraine worth €42.2 billion ($45.4 billion) between February 2022 and December 2023. That is about 2 billion per month.

The EU has pledged €49.7 billion in military aid since the start of the war. So far, however, only €35.2 billion have been allocated.

 "Europe will have to at least double its current military support efforts in case there is no further support from the United States," said Christoph Trebesch, head of the Ukraine Support Tracker and Research Director at the Kiel Institute.

"This is a challenge, but just a question of political will. The EU countries are among the richest in the world and so far they have spent not even one percent of their 2021 GDP to support Ukraine."

The halt in US military aid to Ukraine comes as the 2024 presidential election gears up as Donald Trump appears set to cruise to the Republican party nomination.

How much aid has Ukraine received from the EU?

Skip next section Zelenskyy to sign security agreements in Germany, France
February 16, 2024

Zelenskyy to sign security agreements in Germany, France

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday as he makes his second official visit to Germany since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of his country.

Scholz and Zelenskyy are expected to sign a long-term security agreement. The Ukrainian leader will also meet with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin before traveling to Paris, where he is scheduled to meet with President Emmanuel Macron.

The two leaders are also expected to sign a bilateral security agreement. The agreements follow a decision by NATO leaders at their summit in Vilnius in July.

Britain led the way with a 10-year agreement which states that London will support Ukraine now and in any future conflicts with Russia. Other NATO members are expected to follow. 

On Saturday, Zelenskyy will address the Munich Security Conference, where he will also hold bilateral meetings with world leaders.

Skip next section Ukraine says 'fierce' fighting continues inside Avdiivka
February 16, 2024

Ukraine says 'fierce' fighting continues inside Avdiivka

The Ukrainian military said there was fierce fighting in the besieged frontline town of Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region. It said it was preparing new positions around the industrial hub as Russia stepped up attacks.

"Fierce battles are taking place within the city," Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, a senior Ukrainian commander responsible for forces in the east of the country, said on social media.

"New positions have been prepared and powerful fortifications continue to be prepared, taking into account all possible scenarios," he added. 

The announcement came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv would do "everything" to save lives in the symbolic city, which is surrounded on three sides by Russian forces. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine's army said on social media that it was reinforcing troops who were "standing their ground" in Avdiivka. "According to the decision made, the scheduled reinforcement of units is underway and troops are maneuvering on threatened axes," Ukraine's army said.

Russia has been trying to capture Avdiivka for months. The fall of Avdiivka would be a significant symbolic victory for Russia.

dh/dj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)