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German Defense Minister Visits Odesa, Promises Delivery Of Air-Defense System.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (file photo)

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (file photo)

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, meeting with counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov and at one time being forced into a bomb shelter after air raid sirens blared.

Lambrecht on October 1 visited the city's grain port and inspected a Gepard antiaircraft tank that was provided by her country to help the Ukrainians defend against the Russian invasion.

Lambrecht said the antiaircraft tank would help protect "critical infrastructure" and defend against Russian air attacks.

She also said the first unit of the promised Iris-T SLM ground-based air-defense system would be delivered in the coming days.

Ukraine is scheduled to receive four of the Iris-T SLM systems. A system consists of four vehicles -- a fire-control unit and three rocket launchers -- designed to protect against attacks from the air.

Berlin has so far delivered weapons worth $719 million to Ukraine.

Still, the German government has been criticized -- sometimes even from within -- for its reluctance to provide heavy weaponry to Ukraine while other NATO members have done so.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba last month slammed Berlin for refusing to provide it with Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles it has asked for as Ukraine continues to try and push Russian forces out of territory they are occupying in the east and south of the country.

"Disappointing signals from Germany while Ukraine needs Leopards and Marders now — to liberate people and save them from genocide. Not a single rational argument on why these weapons cannot be supplied, only abstract fears and excuses," he said in an unusually blunt comment on Twitter on September 13.

"What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not?" he added.

Berlin rejected Kyiv's call for battle tanks at a time when some analysts say Ukraine is gaining an upper hand in its battle against occupying Russian forces and high-tech battle vehicles would give them even more momentum.

Lambrecht at the time said that no other countries were currently supplying such vehicles and Germany would not do so unilaterally. During her visit to Odesa, Lambrecht again said Germany will continue to coordinate with its partners on such major decisions.

Earlier on October 1, Lambrecht stopped in Moldova and vowed to increase military aid to Moldova as Chisinau looks warily at Russia's intensions following its invasion of Ukraine.

Lambrecht said during her stop in the capital that negotiations on the details of the support will take place next week.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and dpa

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