Scholz Welcomes Zelenskiy With Pledge for Long-Term Backing

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(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a personal pledge to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Germany will continue to support the government in Kyiv with military and other assistance for as long as needed.

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Scholz hosted Zelenskiy in Berlin for the first time since Russia’s invasion and said the Ukrainian leader’s visit was “a strong signal.” It came a day after the German government announced its biggest package yet of materiel for Ukraine’s armed forces, worth nearly $3 billion.

“We hope that the war will end soon,” Scholz said at a joint news conference at the chancellery Sunday, noting that Germany is the second-biggest backer of Ukraine after the US. “But we are preparing ourselves and our partners to be able to provide support for as long as necessary,” he added.

Dressed in his customary black sweatshirt and combat trousers, Zelenskiy thanked Scholz and the German people for their support and “for every Ukrainian life saved.” He joked that he would be working to make sure that Germany becomes his government’s biggest backer ahead of the US.

“The more that Germany takes the lead, the better the chances for freedom in the world and for more stability in international relations,” he said.

Amid tight security in central Berlin, Zelenskiy met earlier Sunday with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and signed the visitors’ book at Schloss Bellevue, the German head of state’s official residence at the edge of the Tiergarten park.

The Ukrainian leader said the latest German aid package — including air-defense systems, infantry fighting vehicles and ammunition — will help his military’s defense against Russian aggression.

The two governments also agreed on a joint declaration in which Germany expressed strong support for Ukraine’s efforts to meet the requirements to start formal talks on joining the European Union.

Zelenskiy arrived in the German capital overnight following meetings Saturday in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis.

He later flew with Scholz to Aachen near Germany’s western border with France and the Netherlands, where he collected the 2023 International Charlemagne Prize on behalf of himself and the people of Ukraine.

Scholz said in his speech that it was “an extremely fitting decision” that the Charlemagne Prize was being awarded for the first time to a president and his people. Previous winners include Winston Churchill, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton and Angela Merkel.

“As leader of the entire Ukrainian people, you are defending the values for which Europe stands,” Scholz said. “Ukraine can count on our full support,” he added. “Humanitarian support, economic support, and support with weapons but above all for the long term.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola were among guests at the ceremony.

--With assistance from Aliaksandr Kudrytski, Michael Nienaber and Chris Reiter.

(Updates with Scholz comments from Aachen speech starting in 11th paragraph)

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