BERLIN (AP) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday criticized a diplomatic rejection by Ukraine for his country’s president and defended Berlin’s record of supplying weapons to Kiev amid tensions that have flared up at a delicate time in German policy on the war. .
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s largely ceremonial head of state, had hoped to travel to Ukraine on Wednesday with his Polish and Baltic counterparts. But he said Tuesday that his presence “apparently … was not wanted in Kiev.” The German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that Steinmeier was not welcome at the moment, pointing to his close ties with Russia in the past.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany later said the government would be happy to welcome Scholz – who, unlike Steinmeier, sets out the government’s policy. But the rejection of Steinmeier can make it harder.
“The president would have liked to have gone to Ukraine,” Scholz told rbb24 Inforadio, noting that Steinmeier is Germany’s head of state and was recently re-elected with broad support. “So it would have been good to receive him.”
“In any case, it is somewhat annoying, to put it politely,” Scholz added, noting that Steinmeier has strongly criticized Russia’s war and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine.
The clap comes amid a discussion within Scholz’s governing coalition over whether Germany should allow permission to send heavy weapons such as tanks to Ukraine while this nation prepares to face an intensified Russian offensive in the east. Germany broke with the tradition after Russia’s invasion to supply weapons to Ukraine, but has been criticized by Kiev for perceived hesitation and slowness in supplying material.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, told German ARD television that he did not know the reasons for the decision to reject a Steinmeier visit, but also signaled that Kiev would like to see Scholz so that “practical decisions” could be made in conditions such as as a weapon.
A senior lawmaker from one of Germany’s three governing parties, Wolfgang Kubicki, said he did not believe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was “well advised” to reject a visit by Steinmeier.
“I can not imagine that the Chancellor … will travel to a country that designates our country’s head of state as an unwanted person,” he told the German news agency dpa. Another lawmaker in the ruling party, Juergen Trittin, told the RND newspaper group that the move was “a great propaganda success for Vladimir Putin.”
Steinmeier, who became president in 2017, served twice as ex-chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister and before that as ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s chief of staff. At the time, Germany was pursuing a dialogue with Putin and cultivating close energy ties.
Last week, Steinmeier admitted mistakes in Germany’s policy toward Russia, saying “we failed on many points.”
Asked when he would go to Ukraine, Scholz only said that he had visited Kiev shortly before the war and regularly talks to Zelenskyy.
Scholz said that “the weapons we supply have made a very significant contribution” to Ukraine thwarting Russia’s plans for a quick conquest. He was tight-lipped about the possibilities of a major German contribution, but insisted that “we deliver, we have delivered, and we will deliver.”
On Monday, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock of the Green Party said, “Ukraine needs additional military material, above all heavy weapons, and now is not the time for apologies – now is the time for creativity and pragmatism.”
The message appeared aimed at more hesitant German politicians, especially among Scholz’s Social Democrats.
Scholz said “we supply the weapons that all the others also supply.” He also said Germany would not make unilateral decisions and stressed the need to prevent NATO countries from becoming a party to the war.
Germany, which has Europe’s largest economy, has also been criticized for opposing a rapid halt to natural gas supplies from Russia, which account for about 40% of the country’s gas supplies.
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