Russian shelling hit Kharkiv on Tuesday evening, hours after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise visit to the northeastern Ukrainian city with her Ukrainian counterpart, who urged Germany to provide heavy armor.
“The longer such a decision is delayed, the more casualties there will be, the more civilians will die,” said Ukrainian Minister Dmytro Kouleba.
An AFP journalist later heard several explosions in the city, relatively spared in recent times by Russian strikes.
“Stay in the shelters. The occupiers are bombing again!” Regional Governor Oleg Synegoubov warned on Telegram messaging.
It was impossible to immediately determine whether these strikes had caused damage and casualties.
Earlier Tuesday, Annalena Baerbock had come to this city near the Russian border and very tested by the war.
The minister said she had provided “a new package” of aid including 20 million euros for mine clearance and as much to develop the Starlink internet access network. She also announced new deliveries of generators for the Ukrainian energy infrastructure systematically bombed by Russia.
But Ukraine is above all demanding the delivery of Western combat tanks, and Berlin has still not responded favorably to its request to deliver “Leopard 2” armored vehicles, heavy equipment with recognized technology.
– Arms deliveries –
Kharkiv was the target of multiple bombardments early in the conflict, but Ukrainian forces were able to defend it. The fighting front has since moved away and is currently about 130 km from the city.
“Kharkiv is now a symbol of successful Ukrainian counter-offensives which prove that Ukraine can win with sufficient help from its partners,” Kouleba said.
Mrs. Baerbock assured that the country could count on the delivery of weapons which it needs “to liberate its fellow citizens who still suffer from the terror of the Russian occupation”.
After long months of dithering, Germany recently announced the dispatch of 40 “Marder” armored infantry by spring.
But within Olaf Scholz’s coalition, the Greens, Mrs. Baerbock’s party, and the Liberals are demanding the delivery of “Leopard” type heavy combat tanks.
“I have no doubt that Ukraine will receive German + Leopard + tanks, because the federal government knows deep down that it is necessary,” said Mr Kouleba.
To counter Russia’s massive bombing of critical Ukrainian infrastructure, Ukraine will be able to benefit from an air defense system offered by Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday.
This armament, purchased from the United States, is the first NASAMS anti-aircraft system that Canada offers to Ukraine, said Ottawa, which assesses the value of this gift at 406 million Canadian dollars (282 million euros).
This missile system is in addition to the armour, howitzers, winter clothing and ammunition that Canada provided to kyiv to help repel the Russian invasion.
– Ukraine in Europe –
The head of German diplomacy also indicated that she wanted to discuss the process of joining the European Union to which the country aspires.
Ukraine, along with Moldova, was granted EU candidate status in June. But several representatives of the Member States had already warned them not to “have any illusions” about rapid accession.
“It is important to me that we do not lose sight of Ukraine’s place in our European family, even in this winter of war,” said Ms Baerbock.
This is the third time that Annalena Baerbock has visited Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, after trips to kyiv and Boutcha, a town near the Ukrainian capital where Russian troops are accused of having committed crimes. of war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced in the evening that he had revoked the Ukrainian citizenship of wealthy businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, accused by kyiv of high treason in favor of Russia.
This 68-year-old former deputy, born in Siberia and considered the man of the Russian president in Ukraine, had been delivered to Russia in a prisoner exchange between kyiv and Moscow at the end of September 2022 after having been imprisoned for more than five months in Ukraine. .
“If the people’s deputies choose to serve not the Ukrainian people, but the murderers who came to Ukraine, then our actions will be appropriate,” Zelensky defended himself Tuesday evening in his daily address.
However, he did not mention in his message the presumed Russian citizenship of the people concerned.