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Zelenskyy thanks Germany for support — as it happened

Published May 14, 2023last updated May 14, 2023

The Ukrainian president is making his first trip to Germany since Russia launched its invasion. Zelenskyy met Chancellor Olaf Scholz and collected the Charlemagne prize in Aachen.

Olaf Scholz and Volodymyr Zelenskyy walk past soldiers during an official reception with military honors at the chancellery in Berlin
Zelenskyy last visited Germany just before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of his countryImage: Matthias Schrader/AP Photo/picture alliance
  • A German airforce plane flew Zelenskyy from Rome
  • Zelenskyy's talks in Berlin were focused on weapons, air defense, reconstruction, EU and NATO
  • The visit was kept secret for security reasons
  • France pledged more support after Zelenskyy's visit to Paris

This live updates article is now closed. For more President Zelenskyy's visit to Germany, click here.

Zelenskyy accepts International Charlemagne Prize

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy accepted the International Charlemagne Prize for European unity in Aachen, telling the audience that "peace was our primary duty to our countries and to Europe."

Zelenskyy delivers his speech in a black sweatshirt, with Scholz in the background
Zelenskyy thanked the audience in English, before switching to Ukrainian to deliver the substance of his speechImage: Federico Gambarini/AFP/Getty Images

In his acceptance speech, Zelenskyy said he was collecting the prize on behalf of the Ukrainian people who fight daily for their freedom and for the values of Europe.

"Every one of them would deserve to stand here," he said. The Ukrainian leader emphasized that Ukraine wanted nothing more than peace but that could only be achieved with their victory in the conflict.

Zelenskyy entered the ceremony with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and received a standing ovation as he was welcomed into the town hall.

Scholz then said that "Europe owes a lot to the Ukrainian people and personally to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy."

"We stand together! We belong together! And our story will continue together," Scholz added.

Zelenksyy was announced the winner of the honor in December, and made it to Aachen to collect the prize in-person.

EU chief Von der Leyen says Ukrainians fighting for 'freedom, humanity and peace'

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, spoke at the award ceremony for the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was present to receive the prize on behalf of the Ukrainian people.

"The person and the people that we are recognizing today, have lived up to the obligation" enshrined in the Charlemagne prize, the European Commission chief said.

"They are literally fighting for freedom, humanity and peace," Von der Leyen said. "They are bleeding and they are laying down their lives to safeguard the future of their children and of ours."

"President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine know exactly what they're fighting for and they have understood what Europe and our union is all about," she added.

France pledged more military support during Zelenskyy's pitstop in Paris

France on Sunday announced that it would send additional military aid including light tanks, armored vehicles and air defense systems to Ukraine.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy extended his multi-stop European tour and visited Paris where he met President Emmanuel Macron for three hours. 

Macron's office in a statement said that more Ukrainians will be made battle-ready. The country intends to train around 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in France and over 4,000 others in Poland. 

President Macron tweeted a photo with Zelenskyy and said "you can count on our support, our friendship, our brotherhood."

Scholz, Zelenskyy arrive in Aachen for prize ceremony

Following their talks in Berlin on Sunday morning, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy flew to the western German city of Aachen.

Zelenskyy is due to receive the prestigious Charlemagne Prize for services to Europe.

The prize was awarded to the president and the Ukrainian people in December for fighting not only for their country "but also Europe and European values."

Scholz, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki are expected to give speeches.

The Charlemagne Prize, a non-monetary and largely symbolic award, was established in 1950 to celebrate efforts toward European unification.

Ahead of the prize, a rally in support of Ukraine drew several hundred people waving Ukrainian flags to Aachen.

German support for Ukraine 'unwavering'

In a joint statement published following talks between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Berlin, Germany said it "remains unwavering in its commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The German government "supports Ukraine’s initiative for a just and sustainable peace" while maintaining the country's territorial integrity, the statement said.

It added that the two sides have agreed on the need “to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities” and to "increase pressure on Russia and those who are supporting its war efforts through further sanctions."

Berlin said it is committed to helping in the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine and that German businesses were ready to "support reconstruction efforts with know-how and technology."

The joint statement added that Germany actively "supports the modernization as well as reconstruction of the Ukrainian energy sector," following severe damage to energy infrastructure by Russia's military.

Other highlights from the text include how Germany "strongly supports Ukraine in its reform efforts and in meeting the requirements needed to start [European Union] accession negotiations," and Berlin seeks through the NATO-Ukraine Commission "to further increase and expand the partnership" between the military alliance and Ukraine.

Scholz-Zelenskyy hold Berlin news conference

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz once again promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Germany would support his country "for as long as necessary."

Speaking at a news conference following talks between the pair in Berlin, Scholz said Germany had now committed €17 billion ($18.5 billion) in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

"We have close relations that will tie our countries for decades. In the face of [Russian] terror, we are moving closer together," Scholz added. "We are not only supporting Ukraine in humanitarian ways but also politically, financially and supplying weapons."

The German leader said Russia must be "made accountable for the crimes it has committed," describing how Moscow's forces have murdered and plundered during their nearly 15-month invasion.

Scholz also said he was pleased to be flying with Zelenskyy later Sunday to the western German city of Aachen so the Ukrainian president could receive the Charlemagne Prize which is awarded for efforts towards European integration.

Zelenskyy then thanked Germany for "supporting our nation ... for every life that you have saved."

The Ukrainian leader said Scholz had "shown leadership" that had "given all of us the opportunity to make the world a safer place."

Welcoming the new €2.7 billion military aid commitment from Germany, Zelenskyy said the package was a "strong pillar of support."

"Now is the time for us to determine the end of the war already this year, we can make the aggressor's defeat irreversible already this year," he added.

However, Zelenskyy also held out the prospect of "a just and fair peace," as Ukraine's territorial integrity is as important as any other nation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany May 14, 2023
Zelenskyy's Berlin visit was kept secret for security reasonsImage: Michele Tantussi/REUTERS

Zelenskyy given military honors at German chancellery

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy received full military honors as he arrived at the chancellery in Berlin on Sunday morning.

Zelenskyy and Chancellor Scholz stood in silence as a military band played the Ukrainian and German national anthems before the pair moved inside.

DW's correspondent Nina Haase said Zelenskyy's visit was a symbol that the two countries are trying to open a new chapter in relations after Germany was initially hesitant in supporting Ukraine with lethal weapons to counter the Russian invasion.

"You can't overestimate how important this visit is to the German government," Haase said from a vantage point outside the chancellery.

"It comes at a time when Ukraine is preparing a massive counteroffensive [against Russian forces] and after Germany announced a big military package. So there are strong signals that Germany does stand strongly behind Ukraine."

On the eve of Zelenskyy's visit, Germany pledged a new package of military aid worth more than €2.7 billion ($3 billion).

The package contained 30 of Germany's Leopard tanks as well as fighting vehicles, reconnaissance drones and four Iris-T air defense systems seen as crucial to stopping Russian missiles from raining down on Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.

DW's political correspondent Thomas Sparrow said Zelenskyy's trip would also focus on longer-term goals.

"Many European countries have signaled that they would like Ukraine to be part of European structures or even trans-Atlantic structures like NATO. We may see some sign of support verbally but I don't expect that to happen in a concrete way just yet. [The visit] is not only about the immediate-term military and economic aid, it's also about the long 8erm perspective for Ukraine within the European Union framework," Sparrow said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is welcomed by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace, in Berlin, Sunday, May 14, 2023
First stop for Zelenskyy was Bellevue Palace for talks with President Frank-Walter SteinmeierImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool/AP/picture alliance

Steinmeier welcomes Zelenskyy to Berlin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has arrived for talks in Berlin with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Zelenskyy's motorcade pulled into Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the German head of state, on Sunday morning. Bellevue is located in the capital's Tiergarten district.

"In the most challenging time in the modern history of Ukraine, Germany [is] proud to be our true friend and reliable ally," Zelenskyy wrote in the guest book of the German presidency. "Together we will win and bring peace back to Europe."

It is his first visit to Germany since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Steinmeier visited Kyiv in October, following a difficult period in relations resulting from Steinmeier's advocacy of pro-Russia policies during his time as foreign minister.

After meeting with Steinmeier, Zelenskyy met Chancellor Scholz and his security cabinet.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signs the Golden Book as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier looks on at Bellevue palace in Berlin, Germany, May 14, 2023
Zelenskyy signed the visitor's book at the Bellevue place by thanking Germany for its supportImage: Michele Tantussi/REUTERS

Zelenskyy lands in German capital

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Berlin late Saturday, according to his official Twitter account.    "Already in Berlin. Weapons. Powerful package. Air defense. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security," Zelenskyy tweeted.

Zelenskyy last visited Germany for the Munich Security Council event that year just before the war broke out.

The visit comes after the German government on Saturday offered its biggest military aid package yet to Ukraine as it seeks to repel Russia's ongoing attacks. 

Zelenskyy may also visit Aachen for Charlemagne Prize ceremony

The Ukrainian president is set to be awarded the prestigious Charlemagne Prize on Sunday on behalf of the Ukrainian people. 

The winner of the award was announced in December, and Zelenskyy will travel to the western German city of Aachen where the award is traditionally granted.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were also expected to take part in the Aachen event. 

On Saturday, Zelenskyy traveled to Rome for talks with political leaders and the pope. Germany is the ninth country he has visited since Russia's invasion after the United States, Poland, Britain, France, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Italy.

rm, mm, dh/dj, wd (dpa, Reuters)