German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (TV) visited Ukraine and the country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyj in Kyiv on Tuesday. Photo: AP/NTB
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had to go to the shelter during his visit to Ukraine on Tuesday for the first time since the Russian invasion.
It was during a visit to the village of Korjukivka northeast of Kyiv that anti-aircraft sirens forced the German president to seek refuge with Mayor Ratan Akhmedov and a group of others.
– We spent the first hour and a half in a refuge. It gave us a clear idea of the conditions for the people who live here, Steinmeier said.
Korjukivka was occupied by Russian forces early in the war, but they have since retreated. Much infrastructure was destroyed and Steinmeier promised German reconstruction aid.
The German president arrived in the Ukrainian capital by train on Tuesday morning. The visit was not announced in advance.
– My message to Ukrainians is that not only do we stand with them, but we will continue to support Ukraine economically, politically and militarily, Steinmeier said in Kyiv.
At the same time, he urged his own compatriots not to forget how much suffering and destruction there is in Ukraine.
– The Ukrainian people need us. It is important for me, especially now that we are seeing airstrikes with drones and cruise missiles, to send a message of solidarity to Ukrainians, Steinmeier continued.
Zelenskyj thanked Steinmeier and Germany for their support in his daily video address Tuesday evening.
– We want to strengthen cooperation with Germany, Zelenskyj said in the video. He also described the German Iris-T air defense system, which the Ukrainians recently gained access to, as “very effective”.
– We are waiting for other systems like this, he added. Furthermore, he said he hoped Germany would send more than the four it promised, and said it was a “good priority”.
Zelenskyj also expressed his gratitude for the Germans’ willingness to help strengthen Ukraine’s energy system, which is struggling after several Russian attacks on infrastructure in the country.
Steinmeier also tried to visit Kyiv in April, along with the Polish, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian presidents, but the Ukrainian government then asked him not to come.
Ukrainian leaders believed that Steinmeier had too close ties with Russia and that during his tenure as German foreign minister he had failed to heed warnings from Eastern European countries. He recognized it later.
He argued that trade would promote democratic development in Russia, and he was also a strong supporter of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
In early May, he was nonetheless invited to Ukraine by Zelenskyj after the two ended the diplomatic spat. Last week, a planned visit to Kyiv was postponed at short notice for security reasons.
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