Ukrainian ambassador changes tune on Germany
Germany’s “most advanced” IRIS-T air defense system will arrive in Ukraine around mid-autumn, the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, Andrey Melnyk, told local media on Friday. The combative envoy quipped that it’s the only thing he has thanked Berlin for in recent months.
The air defense system, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised to Kiev back in early June, will be produced by the end of summer, Melnyk told the Novoye Vremya newspaper, adding that the Ukrainian soldiers will then have to undergo training to learn how to use it. The system itself is expected to arrive at some point in October, he said.
“The IRIS-T system is the only thing I thanked the chancellor and the [German] government for over the past months,” said Melnyk, who has been known for his criticism of the German authorities after the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian envoy has repeatedly scolded Berlin over not providing enough military aid to Kiev and particularly delaying the heavy weapon deliveries Ukraine desperately asked for.
Speaking about the IRIS-T air defense system, Melnyk called it “the coolest one in the world,” on par with the US Patriot systems. He also praised the fact that, this time, Germany would send not some “old designs” to Ukraine but a “cutting-edge” weapon.
The ambassador admitted that the system, which is to be delivered in October, will only be used to protect the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Other “major Ukrainian cities” might expect similar systems to defend them no sooner than in three or four years, he added.
The ambassador has previously blasted the German government for not providing Ukraine with a single piece of heavy equipment to date. He also revealed that some of such weapons – the German PzH 2000 howitzers – are set to arrive in Ukraine on June 22, the day when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Ukraine, which was a part of the USSR at the time, was one of the first to see its territory attacked by the Nazis.
When Scholz promised the IRIS-T to Ukraine on June 1, it provoked some confusion in Germany since a spokesman of the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, told journalists that the German military itself did not have such weapons in stock.
The only IRIS-T systems the Bundeswehr does have in its arsenal are air-to-air missiles mounted on its Eurofighter and Tornado fighters. Ukraine, however, is reportedly set to receive a ground-based version of this system, which is produced by the German arms manufacturer Diehl among others. According to a defense blog run by journalist Thomas Wiegold, the company is capable of producing two such systems per year.
In early June, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the parliament that the planned delivery of the air-defense system to Ukraine would “take a while, months.” In May, German tabloid Bild reported that the ground-based IRIS-T SLM systems could be deployed by Ukraine in November.