Germany’s defense minister unveils more help for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion

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German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius vowed Tuesday to keep supporting Ukraine’s efforts to win its war against Russia, pledging further military aid worth 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion).

The new support is to include further Iris-T SLM anti-aircraft missile systems as well as anti-tank mines and 155-millimeter artillery shells, German news agency dpa reported.

“We are talking about 20,000 additional shells,” Pistorius said at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Rustem Umerov, in Kyiv, according to dpa.

Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said it was “a great aid package.”

Pistorius’s unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Ukraine and pledged American support “for the long haul,” including an additional $100 million in weapons from U.S. stockpiles.

The visits appeared to be part of an international political effort to keep the war in the public mind as other issues clamor for attention, including the Israel-Hamas conflict.

European Council President Charles Michel also arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday, which is the 10th anniversary of what Ukraine calls its Revolution of Dignity. That uprising brought momentous change for Ukraine, pushing it closer to the West and bringing confrontation with Moscow.

Pistorius paid tribute to the demonstrators who were killed during the pro-European protests 10 years ago, dpa reported.

“Courageous people of all ages took to the streets for freedom, for rapprochement with Europe, and paid for it with their lives,” Pistorius said. He put down red roses at a makeshift memorial to those killed.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in a video message, saluted the Ukrainian desire for freedom and its application to join the 27-nation European Union. “The future of Ukraine is in the European Union,” she said.

“The future that the Maidan fought for has finally just begun,” she said in a reference to central Kyiv’s Independence Square.

For Moscow, the Ukrainian revolt was fomented by Western interests, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kremlin’s view that it was “a coup, a forceful coup financed from abroad.”

Ukraine’s current fight to push out the Kremlin’s forces has lasted almost 21 months. A recent Ukrainian counteroffensive apparently has yielded no major changes on the battlefield, and another tough winter of attritional warfare lies ahead.

The U.K. defense ministry said Russia could target Ukraine’s power grid again, just like last winter when Moscow sought to wear down local resistance by denying civilians home heating and running water.

“Russia has now refrained from launching its premier air-launched cruise missiles from its heavy bomber fleet for nearly two months, likely allowing it to build up a substantial stock of these weapons,” the ministry in London said Tuesday.

Germany is the second biggest single provider of military and financial support to Ukraine after the United States, and German officials said Pistorius aimed to assess the effectiveness of its aid as well as take stock of the fighting during his visit.

Pistorius said he wanted to “express our solidarity, our deep solidarity and admiration for the courageous, brave and costly fight that is being waged here.”

Meanwhile, two Russian missiles struck a hospital in the eastern Donetsk region, wounding six people and possibly leaving more buried under rubble, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said Tuesday.

Russian forces attacked Ukraine overnight with 10 Shahed-type drones, four S-300 missiles and one Iskander-K cruise missile, Ukraine’s air force said Tuesday.

Nine Shahed drones and the Iskander-K missile were successfully intercepted on Monday night, it said. No casualties were immediately reported.

At least five Ukrainian civilians were killed and 10 others were injured in southeastern regions of the country over the previous 24 hours, the presidential office said Tuesday.

Civilians have been victims of Russia’s barrages on an almost daily basis. At least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians, including more than 560 children, have been killed and more than 18,500 have been injured since Russia’s full-scale invasion, the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said Tuesday.

In other developments, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Ukrainian efforts to cross the Dnieper River on the southern front line have failed.

He told top Russian military brass that Moscow’s forces “are steadily holding positions along the entire line of contact and are gradually improving their positions.”

Ukraine’s military claimed last week its troops had secured multiple bridgeheads on the river’s eastern bank in the Kherson region. That would be a small but potentially significant strategic advance amid fighting that has largely come to a standstill.

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Associated Press reporters Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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