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Germany warned about its role in Ukraine conflict

If a nation provides “instructions or training” to a party to a conflict, including in using specific weapons in addition to supplying it with arms, this nation could lose its “safe” status as a neutral party in the conflict under international law, the panel of experts told German MPs in the report.

The weapons deliveries themselves do not pose such a risk under international law, the 12-page document issued back in mid-March says.

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Berlin has brushed off the concerns, saying it does not believe it is crossing a red line by allowing Ukrainian troops to be trained at US bases on German soil. The government is well aware of the March report, spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told the media.

“We are convinced that the training of Ukrainian soldiers [in using] weapons systems in Germany still does not mean directly joining the war,” he said.

Germany’s government announced plans to supply Ukraine with self-propelled anti-aircraft guns last week. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht also announced at the US’ Ramstein base that Berlin would support the training of Ukrainian soldiers with Western artillery systems.

Ukrainian troops have reportedly been receiving military training on German soil for quite some time. In mid-April, the Pentagon announced it would provide training to Ukrainian troops in another country – and last Friday, the US military confirmed soldiers had been trained at its German bases.

The Bundeswehr – the German Armed Forces – and the Dutch military are also involved in this training process, according to the newspaper Die Zeit.

The German government has faced criticism from Left Party MPs who argue Berlin is pushing Europe into a large-scale conflict. The government and Bundestag have made Germany “an active party to the war” with the recent decisions, Left Party MP Zaklin Nastic told RND media group on Monday.

“The federal government is exposing the whole of Europe to a completely uncontrollable danger,” she warned. 

Two groups of politicians and public figures have recently separately addressed Chancellor Olaf Scholz with open letters urging Berlin to stop arms deliveries to Ukraine and contribute to negotiations between Kiev and Moscow instead.

The German government has so far not reacted to any of the letters. Initially reluctant to do so, Germany has been supplying Ukraine with arms together with other NATO nations almost since the start of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine. Berlin has mostly provided Ukraine with small arms, as well as portable anti-tank and anti-air missiles. 

However, Germany’s Rheinmetall defense company has also contemplated sending old Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine. Berlin has also considered sending Marder infantry fighting vehicles.  

Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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