Snubbed president got tough with Zelensky – Der Spiegel
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, for an explanation as to why his visit in mid-April had been canceled by Kiev at the last minute, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has claimed.
In its report on Friday, the media outlet alleged that the two leaders spoke by phone on May 5 for 45 minutes.
At the start of the conversation, Zelensky reportedly expressed his regret over the way Steinmeier had been snubbed by Ukrainian officials, and spoke of a big misunderstanding. The Ukrainian head of state then thanked Berlin for all the aid it had provided Kiev with, and said that he would be glad to welcome his German counterpart in the Ukrainian capital, for instance for the celebrations that same week marking the end of WW2, the article claims.
Steinmeier is said to have turned down the invitation on such short notice, with Zelensky allegedly replying that another date later on could be arranged
However, according to Der Spiegel, the German president would not be placated by the offer, insisting that before agreeing any future events, the past grievances should be put to rest first.
Steinmeier reportedly charged that the cancellation of his invitation had been a “historic affront” to a head of state, unheard-of in peacetime. Such an unacceptable breach of diplomatic protocol warranted an explanation on the part of Ukraine, the German president allegedly said.
As the article suggests, when Zelensky tried to plead ignorance of the affair in mid-April, Steinmeier, who had all the diplomatic exchange in writing on the desk, replied harshly: “Please spare yourself and myself the need to read it all now.”
After one more attempt by the Ukrainian president to appease his colleague, the German president reportedly pressed Zelensky once more, to which his counterpart in Kiev responded with an “evasive, but probably appropriately bruised reaction.” It was only then that Steinmeier relented.
According to Der Spiegel, many staffers at President Steinmeier’s office are still astonished by the sheer harshness the usually-cautious president had displayed during that phone call. Some officials are reportedly also “a bit proud” that their boss did not simply swallow the insult.
When the outlet reached out for official comment, Steinmeier’s office merely said that it does not share contents of confidential conversations.
A statement issued by German officials following that phone call in May indicated that the talks had been “very important” for both leaders. According to it, Steinmeier expressed solidarity with Ukraine and was invited to Kiev.
The German president had been intending to pay a visit to the Ukrainian capital on April 13, along with his Polish counterpart and the presidents of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
However, the day before his trip, Ukrainian officials made it clear that Steinmeier was “not wanted” in the Ukrainian capital. The German head of state had previously been repeatedly criticized by the Ukrainian authorities over his ties to Russia.
According to German media, his name is still associated in Kiev with the 2016 attempt to implement the Minsk agreements in Donbass, known as the “Steinmeier formula.” He also supported the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Germany and Russia, which was canceled by Berlin soon after Russia attacked its neighbor.
The abrupt cancellation by Kiev of the president’s invitation left German officials puzzled and “irritated,” as chancellor Olaf Scholz later said.
Relations between Berlin and Kiev appeared to remain somewhat tense for a few weeks afterwards, with undiplomatic language and recriminations flying.