On Tour For ‘New Security Architecture,’ Zelenskiy Signs Key Agreement With Germany As Ukraine Withdraws From Southern Avdiyivka

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) arrive to hold a joint press conference in Kyiv on February 14, 2022
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) arrive to hold a joint press conference in Kyiv on February 14, 2022. - Scholz landed in Kyiv for crisis talks with Zelensky, ahead of a visit to Moscow to head off what Berlin said was the "very critical" threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed a key security agreement on February 16 between their countries before the Ukrainian leader travels to France to initial a similar deal with President Emmanuel Macron.

The deals come as Kyiv is seeking to shore up support while outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian forces announced they were withdrawing from parts of the embattled eastern city of Avdiyivka.

“President Zelenskiy and I signed an agreement today regarding our long-term security commitments. A historic step. Germany will continue to support Ukraine against the Russian war of aggression,” Scholz wrote on X, formerly Twitter, before a joint press conference. No immediate details about the agreement were given by the German side.

But Zelenskiy, in a message on X, said the document was “unprecedented” and that it guarantees a 7 billion-euro ($7.52 billion) German support package for Ukraine for 2024.

“The agreement also includes a mechanism for urgent consultations in the event of Russia’s military assault on Ukraine,” Zelenskiy wrote, adding: “I am grateful to Germany and all Germans for their solidarity with our country and people, as well as all the support and assistance.”

“Ukraine can rely on Germany,” Scholz said at a joint news conference with Zelenskiy after the signing.

Separately, Germany’s Defense Ministry announced that, as part of a security agreement, Berlin has prepared a fresh package of military support worth 1.13 billion euros ($1.22 billion), which is focused on air defense and artillery.

From Berlin, Zelenskiy heads to Paris, where he is expected to sign a similar agreement with Macron.

“A new security architecture for Ukraine, as well as new opportunities. We are making every effort to end the war as soon as possible on fair Ukrainian terms and ensure a lasting peace,” Zelenskiy, who is also to deliver a speech on February 17 at the Munich Security Conference, wrote on X.

He told reporters the aid agreements signed with Germany and France would give “an impulse to the United States” to approve a critical $61 billion aid package that has been held up by Republicans in the House of Representatives who demand legislation to deal with security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on economic and military aid from its Western allies and especially from the United States, has been facing a shortage of ammunition and military equipment as a critical $61 billion U.S. military and economic aid package is being held back by Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While the complete details of the agreements with Germany and France have been kept under wraps, they come after Zelenskiy signed a 10-year security accord with Britain last month during U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Kyiv.

As Russia’s unprovoked invasion nears the two-year mark, depleted Ukrainian forces have been conserving dwindling ammunition stocks and are struggling to hold back Russian troops closing in on the industrial city of Avdiyivka in Donetsk after a monthslong assault.

On February 16, Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the commander of Ukraine’s southeastern sector, announced on Telegram a withdrawal from the southeastern part of Avdiyivka in order to minimize human losses, adding that it will allow for an improved “operational situation” in the town, after describing “fierce battles” in the city the previous day.

“The decision to withdraw was made in order to preserve personnel and improve the operational situation. Tactically, the occupation of these positions does not give the enemy a strategic advantage and does not change the situation within the Avdiyivka defensive operation,” Tarnavskiy wrote on Telegram.

On February 15, Ukraine’s military deployed the Third Assault Brigade, one of its most-experienced infantry groups, to the embattled city, while withdrawing other battle-weary forces.

“In Avdiyivka a maneuver is under way in some places to withdraw our units to more advantageous positions, in some places to force [the Russians] out of positions,” Ukrainian military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy said.

Major Rodion Kudryashov, the deputy commander of the Third Assault Brigade, told RFE/RL that his forces were completely surrounded but managed to break through.

Kudryashov confirmed that Ukrainian forces were withdrawing from some destroyed positions in the city and taking new, more favorable ones.

“We had to withdraw from some positions, because they are simply levelled to the ground, destroyed. Our servicemen withdrew to more advantageous positions in order to hold the defense line,” said Kurdyashov.

Earlier, Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy said heavy fighting was under way inside the city and Ukrainian forces are being repositioned.

“The situation in Avdiyivka is difficult, but under control. Fierce battles are taking place within the city,” Tarnavskiy, the commander of the Tavria operational group, said on Telegram.

Separately, Kyiv’s Coordination Center for the Treatment of Prisoners of War announced that the bodies of 58 Ukrainian soldiers who had fallen in the war were returned to Ukraine on February 16.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine will ensure the transportation of the repatriated bodies and remains to designated state institutions for transfer to representatives of law enforcement agencies and forensic medical experts to identify the victims,” the Coordination Center said in a message on Telegram.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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