Ukraine dismisses German chancellor’s statements on weapons aid

Ukrainian ambassador says options provided by Berlin did not include heavy equipment

Ukraine has dismissed assertions by German chancellor Olaf Scholz that his government will help Kyiv acquire German-made heavy weapons – and also foot the bill.

After talks with Nato partners on Tuesday, Mr Scholz said Berlin was ready to "equip the Ukrainian military in such a way so that it can defend itself against the Russian attack". To do this, Mr Scholz asked German arms firms to compile lists of available equipment and allow Ukraine choose what it needed most.

”We will make available the money necessary for the purchase,” added Mr Scholz.

But Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, has said a list provided to him by the German government contained "no heavy equipment".

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine nears its third month, Kyiv’s needs include Leopard tanks, armoured vehicles and military helicopters.

Mr Melnyk claims the list of available German equipment provided to him was cut from 48 to 24 pages. Of 15 specific Ukrainian requests from German arms companies, he said, just three remained on the list.

“The weapons we need are not even on this bowdlerised list,” he told Germany’s ZDF television.

Berlin has made €1 billion available to Ukraine to order equipment, he said, “but we don’t know what can be ordered with this €1 billion because the weapons we need aren’t on this list”.

Mr Melnyk has demanded Germany make available tanks and other unused equipment from its own Bundeswehr military depots, requests Berlin says are not possible.

In need of overhaul

German military chiefs say many of their unused tanks are in need of a thorough overhaul, with only a few likely to be ready in the coming months. On Thursday, defence minister Christine Lambrecht said the Bundeswehr armed forces were ready to train Ukrainian soldiers in German equipment unfamiliar to them – but that this, again, would take time.

While Mr Scholz appears to rule out exporting German-made tanks to Ukraine, his foreign minister Annalena Baerbock insisted on Wednesday there were "no such taboos, even if it sometimes sounds that way in German debates".

A German government spokesman says Berlin is providing Ukraine with a “steady stream” of equipment, including armed vehicles, top-of-the-range radar systems, tank artillery attachments and tow trucks.

Plans are also under way for eastern European countries, led by Slovenia, to supply Ukraine with their existing Soviet-era tanks and, in return, receive new-build tanks from German and other companies.

Berlin politicians – from the opposition benches right into the ruling coalition – have expressed frustration at the Scholz administration on the weapons issue and demanded greater clarity on just what Berlin is – and isn’t – willing to provide Ukraine.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) foreign policy spokesman Norbert Röttgen said it was "unacceptable that the chancellor continues to speak in riddles". Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki meanwhile has warned that Germany's "ambiguous position is not helpful".

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine daily observed: “One needs a little practice and a lot of goodwill to understand what [Scholz] wants on heavy weapons.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin

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