UPDATE 1-German Scholz promises more air defense aid to Ukraine

(Adds Scholz’s comments)

LEIPZIG, Germany, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany’s priority in helping Ukraine should be helping it defend against Russian air raids on its cities and to help rebuild its infrastructure.

He added in an interview with RND newspapers on Friday that Europe should prepare to receive more refugees from Ukraine, which has been fighting a Russian invasion since February 24.

“Russia is bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia wants to make sure Ukrainians can’t survive the winter cold,” he said in an on-stage interview. “We are currently discussing with many German companies what they can do to counter this destruction.”

The air defense systems Germany has sent to Ukraine have so far played a key role in minimizing destruction, but Germany will work with partners to send more, he added.

Earlier, Scholz had agreed in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Germany would continue to send air defense systems.

Scholz told the audience that he was convinced that, however diplomatically Western leaders had tried to avoid war as the Russian invasion approached, President Vladimir Putin had long been fixed in its path.

“I am convinced that Putin decided on this war two years ago,” he said. “We saw the build-up of troops… We hoped it was just threatening gestures, but it wasn’t: it was a long war to plan.” (Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Leipzig, Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Matthias Williams and Sandra Maler)

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