German FM Baerbock praises Ukrainian resistance in surprise visit

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By Euronews  with AFP
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, right, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba talk as they walk in war-hit Kharkiv, Ukraine
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, right, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba talk as they walk in war-hit Kharkiv, Ukraine   -   Copyright  AP/Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office

Russian shelling hit Kharkiv on Tuesday evening, just hours after the surprise visit of Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock -- the highest-level Western official to visit Ukraine's northeastern city. The trip was kept secret for security reasons and announced only as she made her way back to Berlin.

Speaking with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, Baerbock vowed further German support for Kyiv, but Kuleba said Berlin's refusal to send his country battle tanks was costing lives.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently agreed to provide Ukraine with the long sought-after Marder infantry fighting vehicles.

But Berlin has so far stopped short of supplying Kyiv with more advanced Leopard battle tanks.

"The longer it takes to make the decision, the more people will die because of the lack of necessary tanks in our army," Kuleba explained.

Wagner group claims advances

On the frontline, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has claimed full control of Ukraine's eastern town of Soledar, in the Donetsk region, which if confirmed, would mark Moscow’s first major battlefield success since last summer.

In his nightly address, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had spoken to European leaders about the situation in the east, and called for a quick delivery of more military equipment.

Libkos/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
A civilian walks among heavily damaged residential buildings in Soledar, Donetsk region, UkraineLibkos/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

"The free world has everything necessary to stop Russian aggression and bring the terrorist state to a historic defeat. And it is important not only for us. It is important for global democracy, for all those who value freedom. It is even more important now when Russia is gathering forces for another escalation," Zelenskyy said.

Medvedchuk stripped of citizenship

Ukraine's leader also revealed that he had revoked the citizenship of four political figures, including Viktor Medvedchuk, who was once seen as Russian leader Vladimir Putin's top ally in Kyiv.

Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian lawmaker, was handed over to Russia in a prisoner exchange last September.

Zelenskyy said the actions were appropriate for those who "choose to serve not the people of Ukraine, but the murderers who came to Ukraine".

The super-rich powerbroker Medvedchuk -- once dubbed the "dark prince" of Ukrainian politics -- was accused of high treason and attempting to steal natural resources from Russia-annexed Crimea and of handing Ukrainian military secrets to Moscow.