Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has pledged to deliver the state-of-the-art Iris-T SLM air defense system to Ukraine within a few days. She "experienced live how much Ukraine suffers from the fact that (with) rockets, that the population is tormented with drones," said the SPD politician during her visit to the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa on the ARD "Tagesthemen". . In the afternoon, Lambrecht himself had to temporarily go to a bunker because of an air raid alarm.
It is important to continue to support the Ukrainian air defense "with Iris-T, this state-of-the-art new system. But also with drone defense," said Lambrecht. She added: "This is a very, very important point in order to relieve the burden on the population here."
At a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksiy Reznikov, Lambrecht announced that the system should arrive in a few days for Ukraine's defense against Russia. The minister arrived on Saturday afternoon for the first visit to Ukraine since the start of the Russian war of aggression a good seven months ago, which was kept secret until the evening for security reasons.
Iris-T SLM anti-aircraft system is designed to protect large cities
Germany intends to initially provide the Ukraine with four of the Iris-T SLM systems, each costing 140 million euros. Funding for three more has been secured. A system consists of four vehicles - a fire control unit and three rocket launchers. It should be able to protect a medium-sized city from air attacks. It is said that two of these systems would probably be necessary to protect the capital Kyiv.
According to the German manufacturer Diehl Defence, the air defense system enables protection against attacks by aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. The Bundeswehr itself is not yet using the system.
The Iris-T air-to-air guided missile, initially developed as armament for combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter, can also be used from the ground with a launch system. Diehl also produces the ground-to-air variant Iris-T SL, which has a more powerful drive and, according to the manufacturer, can hit targets up to 40 kilometers away. The rockets are launched vertically and can be fired in all directions.
Shortly before Lambrecht's visit, two Russian Iskander missiles fell in an industrial area in Odessa, according to Ukrainian sources. Nobody got hurt.
In the port of Odessa, the minister found out about the deployment of one of a total of 30 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks made available by the federal government. The system helps to protect the "critical infrastructure" in defending against Russian air attacks, said Lambrecht in the grain port. From there, the grain is exported across the Black Sea to the rest of the world. Lambrecht also spoke to the German-trained Gepard team.
A planned visit to the city of Mykolaiv, around 40 kilometers from the front, had to be canceled for security reasons due to the threat of Russian rocket and artillery attacks. Lambrecht, together with Reznikov, also wanted to see weapon positions, training facilities and demining activities there.
Minister has to go to a protective bunker twice because of an air alarm
The minister had to seek shelter in a bunker twice because of an air alarm. The first alarm on Saturday afternoon lasted 45 minutes. Reznikov said the Russians shot down a Kalibr missile, probably from a ship. In the bunker he advertised the delivery of anti-ship missiles. Lambrecht said the situation made it clear how important it was to quickly deliver a first unit of the Iris-T SLM ground-based air defense system.
Reznikov said the Ukrainians would fight until all their territories were liberated - including the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Lambrecht emphasized to Resnikov in the bunker: "Brutality must not be successful." It is important that the EU remains united on the sanctions.
The minister showed understanding for Ukraine's application to be quickly admitted to NATO. For such a procedure, however, certain conditions would have to be met. "And very importantly, NATO has taken a clear position that we will not become a war party."
Lambrecht had previously promised the small neighboring Ukrainian Republic of Moldova further support in equipping and training the army. Among other things, it is about the procurement of drones.
There was another air alert in Odessa early Sunday morning. With other members of her delegation, Lambrecht had to seek shelter in the bunker of her hotel shortly before 1 a.m. After about 20 minutes the all clear was given and the minister was able to return to her room. The 57-year-old told the German Press Agency that she was surprised by the alarm while she was sleeping.