Germany will supply Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles from Bundeswehr stocks so it can defend itself against Russia as fighting intensifies around its capital.
It is a major shift from Berlin’s longstanding policy of banning weapon exports to conflicts zone.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It is our duty to do our best to support Ukraine in defending itself against Putin’s invading army,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed Germany’s decision.
“Germany has just announced the provision of anti-tank grenade launchers and Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Keep it up, Chancellor Olaf Scholz!” Zelensky tweeted.
The Netherlands also announced it will send anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, the defence ministry said.
The Dutch government will supply 50 Panzerfaust-3 anti-tank weapons and 400 rockets, the ministry said in a letter to parliament. The Netherlands is also jointly considering with Germany sending a Patriot air defence system to a NATO battle group in Slovakia, it said.
The United States and Western allies are still able to deliver arms into the country to bolster the Ukraine military, and Washington plans to send more in the coming days, a defence official said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Saturday that Washington will provide $350m in additional military equipment to Ukrainian forces.
“This package will include further lethal defensive assistance to help Ukraine address the armoured, airborne, and other threats it is now facing,” he said in a statement.
Kyiv has for weeks been pleading with Germany to send armaments to help it to face down an invasion by Russia.
Kyiv’s ambassador to Germany on Saturday urged Berlin to join the Netherlands and supply Ukraine with Stinger air defence rockets.
“Damn it, it’s finally time to help us,” Andriy Melnyk told Reuters in an interview at the Ukrainian embassy. “We need air defence and we need a no-fly zone.”
Berlin’s obstinate refusal until now to approve weapon deliveries, and a previous decision to send only 5,000 helmets, had sparked anger and mockery, with Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko calling it “a joke”
Berlin has also handed over a field hospital to Kyiv.
Europe’s largest economy is also under increasing pressure to back the decision to kick Russia out of the SWIFT international payment systems. On Saturday, Berlin changed its position about imposing restrictions on Russia’s access to the SWIFT, joining other Western powers in support of harsher sanctions aimed at halting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The country on Tuesday halted the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was designed to transport Russian natural gas to Germany, citing Moscow’s actions towards Ukraine.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on the company in charge of building an $11bn pipeline project.