Germany to provide field hospital for Ukraine but rules out sending weapons

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Germany will send a field hospital to Ukraine amid the security crisis between the West and Russia, the country’s defence minister said on Saturday — while ruling out military aid for now.

Christine Lambrecht said in an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the field hospital will be delivered in February, with training for staff provided, at a cost to Germany of €5.3 million.

“We have already provided respirators,” the minister said, adding that Germany was already treating in German hospitals Ukrainian soldiers seriously wounded in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“So we are standing alongside Kyiv. Now we should do what is within our power to defuse the crisis,” Lambrecht said. However, “the delivery of weapons would not currently contribute” to achieving such a goal, she added.

This position formed a “consensus within the federal government” led by Olaf Scholz, the defence minister said.

Germany’s refusal to send weapons to Ukraine contrasts with the positions of the UK, Poland and the Baltic states. The defence ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania issued a statement saying they received US approval to send Stinger air defense missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles to strengthen Kyiv’s defences.

Russia is demanding security guarantees from the US and NATO, including a permanent ban on Ukraine joining the Western military alliance. It denies planning to invade Ukraine despite deploying tens of thousands of Russian troops along the border.

Lambrecht described as a “red line” for NATO the right of each sovereign state to decide whether to join, saying Russia had no veto. But the West was ready for dialogue with Moscow and to take Russian interests into account, she said.

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Germany’s defence minister also had a warning for Russia over Mali, saying the arrival of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group “will have consequences”.

The West believes several hundred Russian mercenaries have been deployed in the centre and north of the West African country, where Germany has around a thousand troops stationed as part of the United Nations peacekeeping MINUSMA mission.

“Moscow will not succeed, by sending mercenaries, to persuade the West to retreat almost automatically everywhere where Russia does not want to see us. We will not back down, we will not make things so easy for the Russians,” Christine Lambrecht said.

Russia denies its government is linked to the Wagner group, whose activities in several countries have caused controversy. But the unit has been linked to a businessman close to Vladimir Putin.

Lambrecht also appealed to Mali’s military junta to ensure conditions were good if it wanted Germany to retain its presence in the country. Bamako refused permission this week for a German army plane to fly over its territory on its way to Niamey, the capital of Niger.

Mali is at the centre of an Islamist insurgency that began in the north in 2012 and later spread to neighbouring countries.

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