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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy signing security agreements with Germany, France as Kyiv shores up support

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy display the treaties they signed in the chancellory in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb.16, 2024.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a bilateral security agreement with Germany and planned to sign another with France on Friday, securing a strong signal of long-term backing as Kyiv works to shore up Western support nearly two years after Russia launched its full-scale war.

Zelenskyy met in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said Berlin was providing another $1.2 billion package of military aid, including 36 howitzers, 120,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and two more air-defense systems.

Scholz described the long-term security accord as a “historic step.” It’s Ukraine’s second such bilateral agreement after one signed last month with the U.K.

Zelenskyy plans to sign another one with President Emmanuel Macron in France later Friday. He said more were in the works with other countries. “Ukraine has never yet had more valuable and stronger documents,” the president said.

The security agreements appear aimed primarily at sending a message of long-term solidarity as Ukraine has gone back on the defensive in the war, hindered by low ammunition supplies and a shortage of personnel.

“Two years after the beginning of this terrible war, we are sending a crystal-clear message today to the Russian president: we will not ease off in our support for Ukraine,” Scholz said. He put his country’s deliveries and pledges of military aid so far at a total 28 billion euros.

The German agreement, which is valid for 10 years, underscores Germany’s “intention to provide long-term military support to the Ukrainian security and defense forces.” It says Germany and Ukraine “will work together on ensuring a sustainable force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring future aggression in the future.”

In case of future Russian aggression, Germany “would provide Ukraine as appropriate, with swift and sustained security assistance” and modern military equipment as needed, as well as seeking agreement on imposing “economic and other costs on Russia,” the accord states. It goes on state that Ukraine “will continue to implement an ambitious reform program,” which is essential to its ambitions to join the European Union and NATO.

The agreement follow commitments by the Group of Seven most advanced economies, which include Germany, France and the U.K., at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July. The Group of Seven vowed at the time to provide weapons and military equipment, including combat air power, as well as more military training for Ukraine’s beleaguered army.

On Saturday, Zelenskyy is set to attend the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of high-ranking security and foreign policy officials, where he plans meetings with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, among others.

European allies are appealing to the U.S. Congress in recent days to approve a package that includes aid for Ukraine, a $60 billion allotment that would go largely to U.S. defense entities to manufacture missiles, munitions and other military hardware that are being sent to the battlefields in Ukraine. The package faces resistance from House Republicans.

Scholz traveled to Washington a week ago to underscore the urgency of releasing U.S. funding. After meeting Zelenskyy, he renewed his appeal for Congress to release the aid.

“The U.S. is a great power, and its support is essential to the security of Ukraine and its ability to depend itself,” the German leader said. “We are making our contribution, too, but that of the U.S. should not be underestimated.”

Zelenskyy said he thinks the majority of the American population supports his country’s cause. “I expect that the United States will not ‘drop out,'” he said. “I expect that in all of this a pragmatic American approach to us, protecting the security of the world, will be found.”

Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the U.S., and Scholz has called recently for other European countries to step up with more weapons deliveries.

Zelenskyy made one previous visit to Berlin since the Russian invasion in February 2022, in May last year. Friday’s trip will be his third to Paris since the invasion, following visits in February and May 2023.

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