BERLIN — Ukrainian leaders have delivered a blunt message to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier: You’re not welcome here.
Steinmeier, seen as a symbol of Germany’s soft line on Moscow before the invasion of Ukraine, said Tuesday he had intended to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv along with the presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states.
The plan was to “undertake a trip to Kyiv to send a strong signal of common European solidarity with Ukraine. I was ready to do this, but apparently — and I have to take note of this — this was not wanted in Kyiv,” Steinmeier said on a visit to Warsaw.
German tabloid Bild first reported the Ukrainian snub. It quoted a Ukrainian diplomat as saying that “all of us here know Steinmeier’s close ties to Russia” and that the German president is “not welcome in Kyiv at the moment.”
The Ukrainian move amounts to a humiliation for the German head of state, who previously served as foreign minister.
Last week, Steinmeier admitted for the first time publicly that he had been “mistaken” regarding his soft stance on Russian President Vladimir Putin, particularly in the context of his support for the controversial gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2, which many senior German politicians continued to defend even as Moscow massed troops on Ukraine’s borders.
Although Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who also supported Nord Stream 2, canceled the project in February and announced a complete overhaul of German foreign policy, relations between Berlin and Kyiv have been strained, with Zelenskyy calling on German lawmakers last month to start putting principle over the economy by completely isolating Putin.