Scholz sends foreign minister as Zelensky invites him to Kyiv

·3-min read
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have over the years pushed for closer ties with Russia (AFP/Michael Sohn) (Michael Sohn)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to commit to visiting Kyiv, even after Ukraine's leader on Thursday invited him and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, three weeks after the German president was snubbed by Kyiv.

President Volodymyr Zelensky made the invitation during a telephone call with Steinmeier, a source from the German president's office told AFP.

During the talks, "past irritations were cleared up" and Steinmeier expressed his "solidarity, respect and support" for Ukraine, added the source.

Scholz, speaking later Thursday at a press conference, called it a "good thing" that the two presidents have spoken to each other.

But asked if he was taking up Zelensky's invitation, he said that following his own discussions with Steinmeier, "the result of the talks was that the foreign minister will soon be in Ukraine."

A diplomatic spat had been rumbling between the two countries since Steinmeier admitted last month he had offered to visit but was "not wanted in Kyiv".

Scholz had voiced irritation over the snub, and as recently as this week said it stood "in the way" of him visiting Kyiv.

On Wednesday, he said it was on Kyiv to "make its own contribution" to patching up with Steinmeier.

Steinmeier and Scholz are both Social Democrats (SPD), who have over the years pushed for closer ties with Russia -- including energy ties that have left Germany heavily dependent on Russian gas.

Steinmeier admitted in April that he had made a "mistake" in pushing for Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline built to double Russian gas imports to Germany.

- An affront -

The German president, also a former foreign minister, has come under heavy criticism since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February for his years-long detente policy towards Moscow.

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany in March boycotted a solidarity concert hosted by Steinmeier, protesting that the soloists featured on the programme were all Russians.

"In the middle of a war against civilians! An affront. Sorry I'm staying away," Andrij Melnyk wrote on Twitter.

Criticism has also mounted against former chancellor and fellow SPD member Gerhard Schroeder, who is a lobbyist for Russian gas and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Scholz, meanwhile, has been under fire for his own failure to visit Kyiv, as well as his hesitancy over providing heavy weapons to help Ukraine resist Russia's invasion.

Germany has joined in waves of sanctions imposed by the West on Russia.

Berlin has also said last week it would send anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, in a clear switch in Berlin's cautious policy on military backing for Kyiv.

But critics have warned that Scholz was not moving fast enough in providing support to Ukraine.

The chancellor has hit back at criticism of the SPD, accusing his opponents of a "distorted and slanderous depiction" of its Russia policy.

In the telephone call on Thursday, Steinmeier said Germany "stands with united forces in solidarity at Ukraine's side", the source from the president's office said.

Both presidents described the talks as "very important and very good", the source said.

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