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Volodymyr Zelenskyy hails Ukraine defence deals with Germany and France

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said long-term defence agreements struck with Germany and France heralded a “new security architecture for Ukraine and new opportunities”.

Zelenskyy signed 10-year bilateral defence accords with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin and President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday that aim to boost support for Ukraine as it seeks to hold back Russia’s troops along a 1,500km active frontline, nearly two years into the war.

The need to shore up European support has become more urgent because the Joe Biden administration in the US has struggled to deliver a promised $60bn aid package in the face of opposition in Congress.

Scholz described the pledge as a “historic step” and cast support for Ukraine as being key to ensuring a “peaceful European order” in the future. In a separate press conference, Macron told Zelenskyy: “You will have our determined support until the end.”

Under the agreement with Berlin, Germany will provide military aid worth €7.1bn in 2024. It will lead an effort by allies to equip Ukraine with modern air defences while contributing to other “coalitions” providing armour, artillery, IT and drones.

Berlin also announced an additional military aid package worth €1.13bn over four years, including 18 self-propelled howitzers, 18 other howitzers, a SkyNex air-defence system and 100 interceptors for the IRIS-T air-defence system.

The French agreement calls for up to €3bn in support this year.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month signed the first such agreement with Kyiv, including £2.5bn in military aid this year and a pledge to build up the Ukrainian navy. Ukrainian officials say agreements are also close to completion with Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. In all, more than 30 countries have said they would sign such agreements with Ukraine.

The security commitments stop short of mutual defence guarantees but are intended to build up Ukraine’s military capabilities over several years while sending a message to Moscow of western resolve in support of Kyiv, two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion. The accords are also intended as a bridge to Ukraine’s eventual accession to Nato.

However, the message of western solidarity has been undercut by doubts over further US military assistance for Ukraine, which is being held up by sceptical Republicans in the House of Representatives, and by delays to some European Union funding.

The bloc last month agreed a four-year €50bn aid plan for general budgetary support, but a scheme to top up an EU fund used to buy arms for Kyiv by €5bn has been held up by differences among member states.

A $60bn US aid package proposed by the White House for Ukraine, one-third of it military, is stuck in Congress.

US House speaker Mike Johnson, an ally of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, on Thursday adjourned the house for a recess of almost two weeks without putting the Senate-approved package to a vote.

Zelenskyy in Paris said: “I am sure these accords in Europe will help the process along in the US by encouraging [lawmakers] to prioritise aid to Ukraine rather than electoral considerations.”

Despite their latest pledges, the Europeans are unable to make up for the shortfall in US supplies of artillery ammunition and air-defence interceptors this year.

France has come under scrutiny for supposedly providing less weaponry to Ukraine than other European allies such as Germany and the UK.

Data collected by the Kiel Institute in Germany puts France in 14th place globally, with its military assistance since February 2022 worth only €600mn, while Germany has given €17.7bn and the UK €9.1bn.

French officials have disputed those figures, which they say dramatically undercounts their contribution. On Friday, Paris released a new list of the materiel it has given to Ukraine, including 30 Caesar howitzers and about 100 long-range Scalp missiles, and it said it had provided €1.7bn in military support in 2022 and €2.1bn in 2023.

The officials also said France had trained roughly 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers and would expand training to including naval and air activities this year.

Writing in Le Monde, French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné said: “The efforts today in favour of Ukraine are nothing compared with those we would have to deploy against a Russia that considered itself victorious.”

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