Delivering heavy weapons such as tanks to Ukraine would not mean entering the war against Russia, German justice minister Marco Buschmann said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag on Sunday.
German policy since the beginning of the conflict in late February has been focused on which weapons will be given to Ukraine and how quickly they will be delivered.
The pressure came directly from Kyiv where leaders are urging Germany to supply more weapons to help stifle the Russian advance.
Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to commit to sending heavy weaponry such as tanks, helicopters and planes, although voices within his center-left coalition are calling for stronger military support.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the Liberal Free Democrats, the smallest party in the coalition, told the Welt am Sonntag that international law does not classify arms transfers as an act of war.
“So, if [Ukraine] exercises its right of self-defense, its support with arms transfers should not lead us to become part of the war,” Buschmann told the paper, confirming that this was not just his personal opinion but that of the German government.
He added that Germany was one of the first to start a systematic investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine with the involvement of the federal police and the Attorney General. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin would be absolved of responsibility in any case, the German politician said, noting that international law stipulates that active heads of state cannot be investigated.
“There is no doubt that Russian soldiers are carrying out repulsive and terrible atrocities in Ukraine,” he said.
To prove the genocide legally, as U.S. President Joe Biden, among others, has argued, there should be an intention to completely or partially destroy a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group, Buschmann explained. He had not yet been able to tell if there was any evidence of this.