Germany will supply Ukraine with the IRIS-T modern air defence and radar systems, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, stepping up arms deliveries amid criticism that Berlin is not doing enough to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia.
“The government has decided that we will send the IRIS-T system – the most modern system that Germany currently possesses,” the German chancellor told parliament.
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The IRIS-T missiles have been developed together with other NATO nations, according to Scholz, who said Berlin will be “sending more weapons” to Ukraine.
He said Germany will also supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.
Under heavy pressure over the last weeks, Scholz’s government has agreed to send heavy weapons, including self-propelled howitzers and Leopard tanks, to Ukraine.
“We have been delivering continuously since the beginning of the war,” Scholz said, pointing to more than 15 million rounds of ammunition, 100,000 hand grenades and about 5,000 anti-tank mines sent to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24.
Germany has already agreed to deals with Greece and Czech Republic for Athens and Prague to send Soviet-era military equipment to Ukraine in exchange for more modern weapons from Berlin.
The announcement comes as Ukrainian forces are battling advancing Russian troops in the eastern industrial region of the Donbas.
Following a series of setbacks in the weeks after their invasion, Russian troops switched their focus to the Donbas region, planning to capture the parts of the region not already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
Russian forces in a “frenzied push” have seized half of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, which is key to Moscow’s efforts to quickly complete the capture of the industrial Donbas region, the mayor told The Associated Press news agency.
Russian forces seized most of Severodonetsk by Wednesday. Fierce fighting was under way as Russian forces want to take full control of the city.
Military analysts have said the battles in the Donbas are a race against time: the Kremlin is hoping for a victory before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defences.
The West is hoping to tilt the balance.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday the United States will provide Ukraine with the more advanced rocket systems that its leaders have asked for. In an essay published in The New York Times, Biden said the rocket systems will enable Ukraine “to more precisely strike key targets”.
Biden had said on Monday that the US would not send Ukraine “rocket systems that can strike into Russia”.
On Wednesday, Russia criticised Washington’s decision to supply advanced rocket systems to Ukraine, warning the move increases the risk of a direct confrontation between the two.