• Thursday, 13 June 2024

In Kiev, top German diplomat urges allies to protect Ukraine's skies

In Kiev, top German diplomat urges allies to protect Ukraine's skies

Kiev, 21 May 2024 (dpa/MIA) - German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Kiev on Tuesday morning and made a plea for more international support to protect the country's skies from Russian airstrikes.

"To protect Ukraine from the hail of Russian missiles and drones, it urgently needs more air defence," she said at the start of her seventh visit to Ukraine since all-out war erupted in February 2022.

Her trip had not been announced for security reasons.

Baerbock said that Kiev's allies must "join forces" both for Ukraine's sake and to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from sending troops to "our own borders."

She noted that a German-led initiative aimed at building up Ukraine's air defences has raised almost €1 billion ($1 billion). "And we are working hard to ensure that this will be even more," the minister said.

"We are turning over every stone several times and have even gone ahead with an additional Patriot unit."

Ukraine has been on the back foot for months due to shortages of equipment, ammunition and soldiers in the war's third year.

The large city of Kharkiv in the north-east of the country, not far from the Russian border, is being bombarded daily. Russian ground forces have also been advancing into the broader Kharkiv region.

Baerbock had to cancel a planned visit to Kharkiv on Tuesday due to the Russian attacks. She had visited the city, which was heavily attacked by Russian troops at the beginning of the war, in January 2023.

Shortly before Baerbock's visit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once again stressed the urgency of getting air defence systems and Western fighter jets to his country.

"Unfortunately, the free world lacks speed on these two issues," he said on Monday evening.

Zelensky has repeatedly requested the delivery of two more Patriot air defence systems to protect Kharkiv.

Ukraine reportedly has three of the powerful US-made air defence systems. Germany has provided two of them, and the German government recently promised a third unit.

The other Patriot unit currently active in Ukraine comes from the US. Washington is considering the delivery of a further system.

German attempts to procure Patriots from partner countries in Europe or overseas have so far not been successful.