Zelenskiy collects Charlemagne Prize on behalf of Ukrainian people
BERLIN (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy collected the prestigious Charlemagne Prize on behalf of the Ukrainian people on Sunday in honour of services to Europe, capping a visit to Germany in which he secured new military aid and warm support from Berlin.
Zelenskiy flew to the western city of Aachen with Chancellor Olaf Scholz following talks in the German capital. He received a standing ovation at a ceremony in the Coronation room of Aachen town hall, where he was awarded the prize, which celebrates services to European unification.
"Ukrainians will always make Europe stronger," Zelenskiy said in English before switching to Ukrainian to address the gathering that included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
"Ukraine is proposing a victory not just in this war but a victory over aggression, annexations, deportations over the catastrophe of genocide, anywhere throughout the world," he said.
Speaking at the same event, Scholz stressed Germany's backing for Ukrainian aspirations to join the European Union although he had earlier side-stepped a question on Kyiv's rapid accession to the NATO military alliance.
"Vladimir Putin may have thought he could force the Ukrainian nation off its path to Europe through violence, but all his tanks, drones and rocket launchers have had quite the opposite effect," Scholz said.
The German government announced 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) of military aid to Ukraine on Saturday, its biggest such package since Russia's invasion.
Aachen was the residence of the Emperor Charlemagne, often called the “father of Europe”, who managed to unite much of western Europe in the early ninth century.
The Ukrainian people, under Zelenskiy's leadership, are fighting not only for their country "but also Europe and European values", the prize committee said in a statement.
The award underscored the committee's conviction that Ukraine deserved "to enter swiftly into accession negotiations with the European Union".
Previous recipients of the prize include French President Emmanuel Macron and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams, Sarah Marsh, Ronald Popeski, Andreas Rinke; Editing by Sharon Singleton)