Weeks after the snub, the Federal President is still waiting for a call from Zelenskyj – POLITICO

BERLIN – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has not been in contact with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy since he was declared undesirable in Kyiv three weeks ago, with a German request for a call going unanswered since mid-April, officials in Berlin said.

The Ukrainian government embarrassed Berlin last month by declaring that Steinmeier, who was due to visit Zelenskyy with the presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states, was not welcome in Kyiv – a humiliation for the German head of state that sparked an immediate backlash Germany.

The spat intensified on Monday when Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a television interview that Steinmeier’s snub “got in the way” of his trip to Kyiv, which had been a repeated request from the Ukrainian side. Scholz pointed out that Steinmeier – who officially holds the highest office in Germany, although his role is largely ceremonial – must first be able to meet Zelenskyj before he can leave.

Against this backdrop, officials in Berlin told POLITICO that a request from Steinmeier to speak to Zelenskyi by phone has been “pending” for more than three weeks. Steinmeier’s office first attempted to arrange such a phone call ahead of the planned April 13 visit to Ukraine, and repeated attempts at that time had been in vain, officials said.

Officials said the phone inquiry is “pending” and has so far gone unanswered by Zelenskyy’s office. However, officials added that “the position of the Federal President is that it’s not about him, it’s about Ukraine – it’s about doing everything that helps Ukraine,” and the question is whether or when Steinmeier could go to Ukraine was of secondary importance.

The standoff has become a microcosm of the strained relationship between Germany and Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor earlier this year. Ukrainian officials have regularly and publicly berated the German government for being too slow on issues such as arms shipments and an embargo on Russian oil.

Steinmeier will be in Eastern Europe on Wednesday and will travel to Romania to meet his counterpart Klaus Iohannis “for political talks” and to “get an idea of ​​the situation of refugees from Ukraine” in the neighboring country. his office.

While the trip may have offered Steinmeier an opportunity to continue by train from Bucharest to Kyiv, officials in Berlin said Steinmeier and Zelenskyy should first speak by phone before scheduling an eventual visit.

Steinmeier is a controversial figure in Ukraine because he is seen as a symbol of Germany’s soft line towards Moscow before Russia invaded the country. Earlier last month, the President acknowledged that it was a mistake to hold on to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany for so long.

When asked about the lack of communication between Zelenskyy and Steinmeier, a Ukrainian official told POLITICO he only knew of an unsuccessful German attempt to arrange a phone call around the time of the denied visit in mid-April, stressing: “There’s nothing standing in the way of a phone call” between both Presidents.

The Ukrainian official added that it was not true that Steinmeier was “persona non grata” in Kyiv, but that Scholz should visit the Ukrainian capital first.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kiev’s ambassador in Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, had hit back at Scholz’s argument that the Steinmeier-Brupsen was blocking his own trip.

“This is about the most brutal war of annihilation since the Nazis invaded Ukraine, it’s not a kindergarten,” said Melnyk, according to the German Press Agency DPA.

While neither Scholz nor Steinmeier, both from the Social Democratic Party, have yet visited Kyiv, Friedrich Merz, leader of the main opposition party CDU, staged a coup on Tuesday by traveling to Kyiv by train and meeting Zelenskyy.

Merz told reporters in Kyiv that he and Zelenskyi “had a very detailed and very long conversation, well over an hour” and that he would “brief the Chancellor in detail on this conversation upon my return.” Weeks after the snub, the Federal President is still waiting for a call from Zelenskyj – POLITICO

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