The United States is providing Ukraine with more billions in military aid to ward off Russia's war of aggression. This was announced by the US Department of Defense on Friday. The federal government has meanwhile issued an export license for Leopard 1 main battle tanks to Ukraine. The European Union promised the war-torn country further aid for reconstruction. At a joint summit in Kyiv, the EU also promised the country full support for Kiev's desire for early membership. However, there was no concrete time perspective.
The beginning of the summit was overshadowed by an air alert. The trigger was Russian fighter jets in the airspace over Belarus. From there, rockets are regularly fired in the direction of the neighboring country. Sirens wailed again in the afternoon. Initially, no rocket hits were reported.
Ukraine hopes to join the EU soon
After the EU-Ukraine summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made it clear that he wanted to start negotiations on EU membership before the end of this year. "Not a single day will be lost" in the work for rapprochement with the EU. Ukraine has been a candidate for accession since last summer.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel praised Ukraine's progress on its way to the EU in grand terms. However, the joint final declaration lacks a specific time perspective. In it, the EU merely reaffirmed its determination to support the country's European integration. Before starting accession negotiations, Kyiv must fully meet a number of conditions. This involves, for example, the selection process for constitutional judges and a stronger fight against corruption, especially at high level. There is no fixed schedule, said von der Leyen, but certain goals have to be achieved.
EU wants to limit the price of Russian diesel exports
Together with international partners, the EU wants to force Russia to sell petroleum products such as diesel below the market price to buyers in other countries. An agreement reached by government representatives on Friday provides for an initial price limit of 100 US dollars per barrel (159 liters), as several diplomats from the German Press Agency in Brussels confirmed. That's the equivalent of around 91 euros at the moment. For comparison: on international exchanges, a barrel of diesel for delivery to Europe was last traded at prices equivalent to around 100 to 120 euros. Russia is doing billions in business by exporting oil products, and Moscow can use the money to finance the war.
Ukrainian Ambassador welcomes approval for Leopard 1 tanks
Ukraine is expected to receive significantly more German Leopard main battle tanks than previously expected. After the Bundeswehr had promised 14 Leopard 2 tanks, the federal government also gave the go-ahead on Friday for the export of older Leopard 1 tanks from industrial stocks. The number initially remained open. It will now be "particularly up to the companies to find out what can actually be delivered in practice," said Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).
Ukrainian Ambassador Oleksii Makeiev welcomed the announcement. "Following last week's historic decision on the Leopard 2, it is an important sign that the armored coalition has not only been formed by the western partners, but is growing and becoming stronger," Makeiev told the German Press Agency. The Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk criticized that the export license could have come much earlier. The Düsseldorf-based company Rheinmetall already offered to deliver 88 Leopard 1A5s to Ukraine in April last year, the former Ukrainian ambassador told the German Press Agency.
The Leopard 1 is the first main battle tank built for the German Army after World War II. It was produced between the mid 60's and mid 80's. The 14 Leopard 2 tanks promised last week are significantly more modern.
According to a report in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", Rheinmetall and Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) want to prepare dozens of Leopard 1 tanks for export to Ukraine. According to the report, however, there have been problems obtaining ammunition so far.
New aid pledges from Washington
The United States is considered Ukraine's most important ally. New commitments came from Washington on Friday. US Defense Department spokesman Pat Ryder announced a new package worth around $2.2 billion for Kyiv. According to the Pentagon, the United States has made available or promised military aid to Ukraine in the amount of around 29.3 billion US dollars since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression at the end of February. This primarily includes other anti-aircraft and anti-tank equipment, as well as artillery ammunition and rockets of various ranges for the Himar multiple rocket launchers supplied by the USA. The package also includes other armored infantry vehicles.