5000 Military helmets for ukraine : ambassador speaks of “pure symbolic gesture”, klitschko of “absolute joke”

Germany pledges military helmets to Ukraine in dispute with Russia, says clear signal. The Ukrainian side sees it differently.

Germany will supply 5000 military helmets to Ukraine, which fears further military aggression by Russia. This is a "very clear signal: We stand by your side," said Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), who made the move public on Wednesday after a meeting of the defense committee.

She also welcomed the fact that talks in the Ukraine conflict are getting back on track. "We are working to make sure we settle this conflict peacefully in the middle of Europe," she said. Criticism came from Ukraine, whose leadership had repeatedly demanded arms deliveries.

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The Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin welcomed the delivery of the helmets, but at the same time criticized them as a "pure symbolic gesture". "This is just a drop in the bucket, it is not even a consolation," Ambassador Andrij Melnyk told the German Press Agency. "Ukraine expects a 180-degree turnaround from the German government, a real paradigm shift."Ukraine has demanded arms deliveries on a large scale for defense against a possible Russian attack. Melnyk had spoken of warships and air defense systems. In addition, he had 100.000 protective helmets and vests requested for volunteers.

According to information from the Defense Ministry, Ukraine then on 19. January in a letter for equipment assistance asked and helmets and protective vests as need mentioned. However, he said, no specific quantities had been requested in the process.

Klitschko calls delivery "absolute joke"

Melnyk said the delivery of the helmets was "the first sign that the traffic light government is finally trying to critically question its absolutely incomprehensible blockade attitude, so that Ukraine’s defense capability can be strengthened in the face of the acute threat of war". He demanded, "We do not need tactics and maneuvering, but courageous action by the Federal Republic, which will finally provide Ukraine with German defensive weapons, which we need the most, especially today."The mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, also reacted with sharp criticism in the "Bild" newspaper. 5000 helmets were "an absolute joke".

Dispute also looms over German approval demanded by Estonia for the transfer of artillery pieces ("howitzers") from old GDR stocks to Ukraine – currently the subject of consultations in Berlin. The parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group, Katja Mast, spoke out against a license. "I can say for myself that I think there should be no approval," Mast said in Berlin. German approval is necessary because the weapons had been sold first to Finland and then later given from there to Estonia.

The SPD politician justifies her rejection of the delivery by saying that it involves lethal, i.e. deadly, weapons. The export of such armaments to Ukraine has been ruled out by the German government. Speaking specifically about the howitzers, Mast said: "These are also offensive weapons."

However, not only Ukraine, but also Poland expects a German authorization. "Such a small thing as the delivery of a few howitzers from Estonia to Ukraine should not be blocked just because the weapons originally came from Germany," Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek told the German Press Agency. "This should not be upgraded to a symbol, but approved quickly. We are in a special situation. And in a special situation, one should also resort to special means."

Read also these Tagesspiegel Plus articles on the subject:

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  • Danger of escalation in the Ukraine conflict: How can Putin still be stopped?? (T+)
  • The empire returns: What Putin’s plans are for the West (T+)

Lambrecht pointed on Wednesday to Germany’s extensive commitment to Ukraine. For example, aid amounting to 1.8 billion euros would be provided in development cooperation alone.

In February, according to the Ministry of Defense, the Air Force will move Eurofighters to Romania to participate in the protection of NATO airspace ("Air Policing South") – as it does over the Baltic States. Germany will provide around 13,600 of the total 40,000 troops for the NATO Response Force ("Nato Response Force") from this year until 2024 – an increase of 70 percent compared to 2019.

More on the topic

"Situation in which anything can happen" What Russia and Ukraine want to negotiate about on Wednesday

The force is ready for military operations for national and alliance defense and for NATO’s international crisis management – in principle without regional limitation. In the coming year, Germany will also lead the NATO "spearhead" VJTF and has been the lead nation in the NATO mission in Lithuania for the last five years. A Defense Department spokesman said, "We stand firmly alongside our allies and take on responsibilities like obligations." (dpa)

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