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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Rome on Saturday where he will meet with Pope Francis and the leaders of Italy. Germany is preparing a new arms package for Ukraine worth €2.7 billion ($2.97 billion), the defense ministry said, reportedly the largest for the country since Russia invaded last year. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
10:11am: Germany announces €2.7 billion arms package for Ukraine
Germany is preparing a new arms package for Ukraine worth 2.7 billion euros ($2.97 billion), the defense ministry said Saturday. Weapons will include tanks, armored vehicles and air-defense systems.
“We all hoped for a swift end to this terrible war by Russia against the Ukrainian people, but unfortunately this is not in sight,” Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement.
The package will include 30 additional Leopard-1 tanks, Marder armored vehicles, air-defense systems and surveillance drones, the ministry said.
Der Spiegel magazine reported that it was the largest in Germany since the start of the war.
Germany last year provided military support worth €2 billion and has scheduled shipping aid worth €2.2 billion for this year.
9:50am: Zelensky will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Rome where he will meet Pope Francis and Italian leaders on Saturday, the Vatican said. Zelensky will hold midday meetings with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who strongly backs military and other aid for Ukraine, and with President Sergio Mattarella.
Zelensky’s exact schedule has not been made public due to security concerns, and the Vatican has only confirmed a meeting with the pope before the Ukrainian president’s arrival in Rome. Italian state television reported that, as part of protective measures, a no-fly zone had been ordered for Rome’s skies and police sharpshooters were strategically placed on tall buildings.
— Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) May 13, 2023
Key developments from Friday, May 12:
Moscow acknowledged on Friday that its forces had fallen back north of the battleground town of Bakhmut in Ukraine after a new Ukrainian offensive, a retreat called by mercenary chief Wagner in Russia is a “defeat”. The rare recognition of a battlefield setback came after Ukraine said its forces had made significant progress around the embattled eastern city, which has been at the center of fighting with Russia for months. .
Russian installation officials said Friday that missiles fired by Ukrainian forces injured six children and a Russian parliamentarian and damaged two unused factories in the eastern city of Luhansk. region, about 100km (60 miles) behind the front lines.
The Ukrainian military said in a daily update that Russia is focusing its efforts near Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka. “The enemy has made 36 attacks in these directions in the last 24 hours.”
South Africa’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, “admits that he crossed a line” and “apologises unreservedly” after he said a Russian ship had taken weapons to South Africa last year, causing a diplomatic row on Thursday. Following the US ambassador’s statements, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would appoint an independent inquiry to look into the allegations.
Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)