Zelensky expected in Berlin and Paris

(Paris) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected in Berlin and Paris on Friday where he will sign a bilateral security agreement with Emmanuel Macron, a few days before his country enters its third year of war with Russia.

In Berlin he will meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, announced the Ukrainian presidency, without further details. Germany is also negotiating a security agreement with Kyiv, the conclusion of which is expected soon.

Volodymyr Zelensky will then travel to Paris to sign the agreement with France, at the Élysée Palace, before returning to Germany on Saturday where he will attend the Munich Security Conference.

“This agreement follows the commitments that were made in G7 format on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July 2023,” recalled the French presidency.

NATO leaders did not then set a timetable for Ukraine’s accession, to the great dismay of Kyiv, but the G7 countries committed to providing “long-term” military support in order to to help combat the current Russian offensive, but also to deter Moscow from any future attacks against its neighbor.

The UK was the first to reach such a deal during a visit by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Kyiv on January 12. The countries of the European Union had not yet taken the plunge.

“Unwavering support”

France thus reaffirms its “determination to continue to provide, over the long term and with all of its partners, unwavering support to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people” almost two years after the start of the Russian offensive, on February 24, 2022, underlines the Élysée.

Ukraine continues negotiations with a range of other states, from Italy to the United States. Other countries have also joined the G7 initiative, from Poland to Scandinavia.

So much support that is very frowned upon in the Kremlin, which had already judged in July that such guarantees would “undermine Russia’s security”.

These commitments may relate to the granting of modern military equipment, interoperable with that of NATO, the training of Ukrainian soldiers or the strengthening of the Ukrainian defense industry.

The military situation is difficult for the Ukrainians who lack men, weapons and ammunition, while a new American aid package is blocked in Congress.

The cessation of American aid is already having an “impact” on the battlefield, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday.

In this context, Ukraine is urging the EU to increase its deliveries of artillery shells and to “sign long-term contracts with Ukrainian defense companies”.

“Needs on the front”

In January, Paris launched an “artillery coalition” aimed at strengthening Kyiv’s capabilities against Russia. To do this, the Allies must increase their own production rates for guns and ammunition.

France itself has said it is ready to produce 78 Caesar cannons in 2024 and early 2025 for Ukraine, in addition to the 30 already delivered. Mounted on a truck, the Caesar can fire 155mm shells up to 40 kilometers away.

It also announced the delivery of around fifty A2SM surface-to-air missiles per month in 2024 and new deliveries of around “forty” long-range Scalp missiles.

Olaf Scholz, for his part, gave the groundbreaking ceremony for a new shell factory for the manufacturer Rheinmetall on Monday, which plans to produce, on all its sites in Europe, up to 700,000 artillery shells per year in 2025, compared to 400 to 500,000 this year and 70,000 before the war in Ukraine.

This is the Ukrainian president’s third visit to Paris since the start of the war, after those of February and May 2023.

The two leaders will have “the opportunity to discuss the situation on the front, Ukraine’s military, economic and humanitarian needs as well as Ukraine’s accession negotiations to the European Union, to which the France provides its full support,” specifies the Élysée.

Emmanuel Macron, for his part, said in mid-January that he would go to Ukraine “in February”. When questioned, his entourage assured that he would go to Ukraine soon, without further details.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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