VDefense Minister Christine Lambrecht has traveled to Ukraine for the first time since the war began. In the port city of Odessa on the Black Sea, the SPD politician was received by her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Resnikov on Saturday. Lambrecht promised to deliver a first unit of the already promised Iris-T SLM ground-based air defense system within a few days. Even the Bundeswehr does not yet have the state-of-the-art system.
Shortly before the visit, which was initially kept secret for security reasons, two Russian Iskander missiles hit an industrial area in Odessa, according to Ukrainian sources. Nobody got hurt. In the afternoon, Lambrecht himself had to temporarily go to a bunker because of an air raid alarm.
Lambrecht inspects Cheetah anti-aircraft tanks
In the port of Odessa, the minister found out about the use of a Gepard anti-aircraft tank made available by the federal government. Germany delivered a total of 30 of these tanks, including around 6,000 rounds of ammunition, to the country attacked by Russia. The system helps to protect the “critical infrastructure” in defending against Russian air attacks, she said in the grain port. From there, the Ukrainian grain is exported to the world via the Black Sea, after deliveries had long been blocked by Russia. Lambrecht also spoke to the German-trained Gepard team.
A planned visit to the city of Mykolaiv, around 40 kilometers from the front, had to be canceled for security reasons due to the threat of Russian rocket and artillery attacks. In the area, Lambrecht originally wanted to visit weapon positions, training facilities and mine clearance activities together with Reznikov.
Minister has to go to a protective bunker in the event of an air alarm
Because of an air alert that lasted 45 minutes, the 57-year-old had to seek shelter in a bunker in the afternoon. Reznikov said the Russians shot down a Kalibr missile, most likely from a ship. In the bunker he advertised the delivery of anti-ship missiles. The SPD politician said the situation made it clear how important it was to deliver a first unit of the Iris-T SLM ground-based air defense system quickly.
Lambrecht spoke of delivery in a few days and praised the system’s Ukrainian team, which she met during training in Germany. “Ukraine is currently experiencing an incredible number of airstrikes, and that is why it is so important that we provide even more support in terms of air defense,” said the minister, emphasizing: “You can count on us there.” Resnikov said Ukrainians would do that fighting for a long time until all their territories are liberated – including the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
During the discussion with Resnikov in the protective bunker, Lambrecht emphasized: “Brutality must not be allowed to succeed.” It is important that the EU remains united on the sanctions. Additional sanctions must also be discussed. The minister showed understanding for Ukraine’s application to be quickly admitted to NATO. For such a procedure, however, certain conditions would have to be met. “And very importantly: NATO has positioned itself clearly, we will not become a war party.”
Resnikov initially received his colleague for lunch in a hotel directly on the Black Sea. Both hugged each other warmly in greeting.