Ukraine's Zelenskiy thanks Scholz for defence package, discusses 'further cooperation'

FILE PHOTO: French President Macron, German Chancellor Scholz, Italian PM Draghi and Romanian President Iohannis visit Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had spoken by phone to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday and thanked him for a "powerful defense package" that would help Ukraine fend off Russian troops and defend its cities.

He also said they had discussed further defence cooperation but gave no details.

In a joint statement with Washington on Thursday, Berlin said it would provide Kyiv with Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air-defence system.

"I thanked (Scholz) for the powerful defense package, including several dozen Marder vehicles and the Patriot system. We discussed further cooperation to strengthen the Ukrainian army," Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.

He and other top Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for heavier and more advanced weapons systems following Russia's invasion, now in its eleventh month.

France also announced this week that it was sending light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles.

Zelenskiy also said on Friday that he had met two U.S. senators in Kyiv, Jack Reed and Angus King, to discuss the battlefield situation and "the risks of potential escalation", hours after a Russian-declared unilateral ceasefire began.

Zelenskiy called the ceasefire a "manipulation".

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)