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Zelensky arrives in Rome as Germany announces new €2.7 billion weapons package for Ukraine

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Rome on Saturday where he will meet with Pope Francis and Italian leaders. Germany is preparing a new weapons package for Ukraine worth €2.7 billion ($2.97 billion), the defence ministry said, reportedly its largest for the country since Russia invaded last year. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2). 

10:11am: Germany announces €2.7 billion weapons package for Ukraine

Germany is preparing a new weapons package for Ukraine worth 2.7 billion euros ($2.97 billion), the defence ministry said Saturday. The weapons will include tanks, armoured vehicles and air-defence systems.

“We all hope for a rapid end to this terrible war by Russia against the Ukrainian people, but unfortunately this is not in sight,” Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.

The package will include 30 additional Leopard-1 tanks, Marder armoured vehicles, air-defence systems and surveillance drones, the ministry said. 

Der Spiegel magazine reported that it would be Germany’s largest since the outbreak of the war.

Germany last year provided military support worth €2 billion and had earmarked sending aid worth €2.2 billion for this year.

9:50am: Zelensky to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Rome where he will meet with Pope Francis and Italian leaders on Saturday, the Vatican said. Zelensky will hold midday meetings with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who staunchly backs military and other aid for Ukraine, and with President Sergio Mattarella.

Zelensky’s exact schedule wasn’t being publicly announced because of security concerns, and the Vatican only confirmed a papal meeting shortly before the Ukrainian president’s arrival in Rome. Italian state television reported that, as part of protective measures, a no-fly zone was ordered for Rome skies and police sharpshooters were strategically placed on high buildings.

  • Key developments from Friday, May 12:

Moscow acknowledged on Friday that its forces had fallen back north of Ukraine’s battlefield city of Bakhmut after a new Ukrainian offensive, a retreat that the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries called a “rout“. The rare acknowledgement of a battlefield setback came after Ukraine said its forces had made significant advances around the embattled eastern city, which has been the epicentre of fighting with Russia for months. 

Russian-installed officials said on Friday missiles fired by Ukrainian forces had injured six children and a Russian parliamentarian and damaged two disused factories in eastern Luhansk region’s main city, about 100km (60 miles) behind the front lines.

The Ukrainian military said in a daily update that Russia was focusing its efforts near Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka. “The enemy carried out 36 attacks in these directions in the last 24 hours.”

South Africa‘s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, had “admitted that he crossed a line” and “apologised unreservedly” after he said a Russian ship had picked up weapons in South Africa last year, causing a diplomatic uproar on Thursday. Following the US ambassador’s statements, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would appoint an independent inquiry to look into the allegations.   

Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

This story originally appeared on France24

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