Germany to send Soviet anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine

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Germany will increase weapons deliveries to Ukraine following the Russian invasion by sending 2,700 anti-aircraft missiles to the conflict zone; a government source told AFP on Thursday.

The government “approved further support for Ukraine”, involving the delivery of STRELA-type anti-aircraft missiles of Soviet manufacture, which were previously used by the army of communist East Germany, the source said.

Germany’s first arms consignment of 1,000 anti-tank and another 500 anti-aircraft missiles has already been despatched to the front, the government said on Wednesday.

Another 18,000 helmets were also sent to Ukraine over the weekend, bringing the total number donated by Germany to 23,000.

“Further military equipment is ready to be sent,” a defence ministry spokeswoman told AFP without giving details, noting that some items had yet to be approved.

The move came after Germany reversed its long-standing policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones, a position rooted in Nazi-era war guilt.

Allies had criticised Berlin for failing to support the Ukranian government with lethal weapons, initially offering to send 5,000 helmets and build a field hospital.

On Saturday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz recognised that the Russian invasion represented a “turning point in history” that compelled Germany to rethink its priorities.

Germany has pledged to invest €100 bln ($111 bln) in the build-up of its own armed forces in the face of the Russian threat.

The government on Saturday also approved the delivery of German-made armaments to Ukraine from third countries, including 400 anti-tank rocket launchers via the Netherlands.

The government also unblocked the delivery of eight old howitzer cannons that Estonia had purchased from East Germany.

Egon Krenz, the former leader of the communist state, told the daily Berliner Zeitung in January that deliveries of east German weapons would “go against the spirit of reunification”.