VIENNA (AP) – In a significant change, the German government said on Saturday it would send arms and other supplies directly to Ukraine, which is fighting to prevent Russia from invading its capital. Officials said Germany is also ready to support some of the restrictions of the SWIFT global banking system for Russia.
Germany’s chancellor announced on Saturday evening that it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles “as soon as possible” to Ukraine.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a turning point. It threatens our entire post-war order,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. For, it is our duty to help Ukraine, to the best of our ability.”
The news came soon after the German economy and climate ministry said in a statement on Saturday evening that Germany was allowing the Netherlands to send 400 German-made anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. The government has also approved the shipment of 9D-30 howitzers and ammunition originally from Estonia.
Germany has long stuck to a policy of not exporting lethal weapons to conflict zones, including Ukraine. As recently as Friday, government officials said they would adhere to that policy.
But the country – which has the strongest economy in the 27-nation EU – has faced criticism from Ukrainian officials and other allies that it has not acted decisively enough to help save Ukraine from a Russian invasion. Earlier, Germany had contributed 5,000 helmets for the defense of Ukraine, a move that was ridiculed on Twitter.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed news of the arms shipment, posting Scholz’s praise on Twitter: “Keep it up, Chancellor @OlafScholz! Anti-war coalition in action!”
In addition, the German Ministry of Economy and Climate said on Saturday that Germany would send 14 armored vehicles and up to 10,000 tonnes of fuel to Ukraine.
“Following Russia’s brazen attack, Ukraine should be able to defend itself,” Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock and Economy Minister Robert Hebek said in a statement. “The federal government is therefore supporting Ukraine in providing urgently needed materials.”
And after previously opposing the prospect of banning Russia from the SWIFT global financial system, Barbock and Habeck said Germany supports SWIFT’s “targeted and functional ban”.
“There is a need for a strategy to limit the collateral damage of decoupling from Swift in such a way that it affects the right people,” Barbock and Habeck said.
Separately on Saturday, the United States announced $350 million in aid to Ukraine, a total of $1 billion in security aid since President Joe Biden took office. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the additional aid included “anti-armor, small arms and various munitions, body armor and related equipment”. A senior defense official said the aid, which includes anti-tank weapons, would be delivered to Ukraine in phases and as soon as possible. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal plan.
Other nations pledged military aid. Italy announced earlier this week that it would send non-lethal military equipment such as de-mining equipment and protective equipment for soldiers.
Follow all AP stories on the Russian invasion of Ukraine