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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s decision to declare his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier undesirable in Kyiv has sparked dismay among German politicians and warnings that the move could backfire.
Steinmeier, who was seen as a symbol of Germany’s soft line on Moscow before invading Ukraine, had planned to visit Kyiv on Wednesday along with the presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states, but the German president had to cancel his trip – which was not the case Case was released ahead of time for security reasons – after Kyiv indicated he was not welcome.
The move was a humiliation for Steinmeier – a former foreign minister closely associated with Berlin’s past policy of maintaining close economic and diplomatic ties with Russia – but also for Germany as a whole. As Federal President, Steinmeier is the highest-ranking representative of the German state.
That Selenskyj announced his decision a few hours before Steinmeier’s planned secret trip after days of preparations between Berlin and Kyiv and Ukrainian officials licked the snub to the German tabloid Bild deepened the diplomatic insult to Germany.
In an official statement, a government spokesman was sober, saying Steinmeier “took a very clear and unequivocal position on the side of Ukraine and represents it,” stressing that he also appealed directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin for respect of the sovereignty of the country Ukraine.
Others were more critical. “While I understand the existential threat to Ukraine posed by the Russian invasion, I expect Ukrainian officials to practice a minimum of diplomatic etiquette and not overly interfere in our country’s internal politics.” called Rolf Mützenich, leader of the party’s centre-left Social Democrats Steinmeier and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Michael Roth, chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, told POLITICO that he was “disappointed” by Zelenskyy’s decision.
“He [Steinmeier] would have arrived as the highest representative of our country with a clear signal: We stand by Ukraine – with words and deeds. It’s a shame,” said Roth, who is also a Social Democrat.
Roth visited western Ukraine on Tuesday along with two other leading MPs in Germany’s ruling coalition – Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the FDP, who chairs the Bundestag’s Defense Committee, and Anton Hofreiter, who chairs the Green Party’s European Affairs Committee.
The trio met with Ukrainian lawmakers and Roth stressed that such a dialogue is valuable. “We were welcomed with open arms in Ukraine. In our discussions we were able to clear up and clarify a lot,” he said.
Strack-Zimmermann told ZDF that Selenskyj’s decision was “not friendly”, but also expressed understanding: “Everywhere the nerves are blank,” she said, adding that the case should best be dealt with “behind the scenes” and not in public will.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, told ARD that Zelenskyy wanted Chancellor Scholz and not Steinmeier to come to Kyiv and announce further arms deliveries.
“Our president is waiting for the chancellor so that he can immediately make practical decisions, including the supply of weapons,” Arestovych said.
While Steinmeier is head of state, his role is more symbolic. The executive lies with Scholz as Federal Chancellor.
Despite pressure from coalition partners, Scholz is holding back a decision on deliveries of German tanks and heavy weapons to Ukraine.
Wolfgang Kubicki, an FDP MP, warned that the Ukrainian leader’s actions could have been counterproductive if Zelenskyy’s aim had in fact been to press Scholz to visit Kyiv and announce a new level of military support.
“I can’t imagine the chancellor of a government supported by the FDP traveling to a country that declares our head of state an undesirable person,” Kubicki told the German Press Agency DPA.
Jacques Schuster, chief commentator of the German daily newspaper Welt, argued that “Zelenskyy should not overshoot the mark,” noting that Germany had been “Kiev’s largest country.” [financial] donor since [initial] Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy’s move on Tuesday came on the same day that the German security cabinet met to discuss possible deliveries of German tanks to Ukraine. But there was no immediate sign of a change in position.
A government spokesman said, “Our stance remains unchanged: we have delivered weapons, continue to deliver, but are not talking about grades, quantities or dates.”
https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-frank-walter-steinmeier-snub-disappointment-germany/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Selenskyj's snub to Steinmeier triggers backlash in Germany - POLITICO