© Ukrainian President OfficeGerman FM Annalena Baerbock • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky
The conflict between Ukraine and Russia could "could go on for years", but Berlin will keep supporting Kiev all the way, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said.

She told the Bild tabloid on Sunday:
"Unfortunately, we have to assume that Ukraine will still need new heavy weapons from its friends next summer. Ukraine is also defending our freedom, our peace. Berlin will support Kiev "financially and militarily — and for as long as it is necessary, full stop!"
Baerbock's pledge comes despite her admission earlier this week that Germany's military is facing an "absolute deficit" of hardware, due to arms shipments to Ukraine.

Berlin has so far supplied artillery pieces, shoulder-fired rockets and anti-aircraft self-propelled guns to Ukraine. Nevertheless, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced criticism throughout the six months of the conflict, for his apparent reluctance to send more sophisticated weaponry to Kiev.

Baerbock said on Wednesday that Germany's Iris-T anti-aircraft missile system will be sent to Ukraine in the coming weeks, and that more deliveries should be expected by the end of the year.

In her interview with Bild, the diplomat pledged to "cushion the social imbalances resulting from high energy prices" in Germany, caused by a drop in deliveries of Russian gas to Europe, amid sanctions against Moscow.

Baerbock also defended Ukraine's claim to Crimea, which overwhelmingly voted to reunite with Russia in a referendum in 2014. The Green party politician claimed:
"Crimea also belongs to Ukraine. The world has never recognized the annexation of 2014, which was against international law."
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.