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25 Oct, 2022 15:47

German president visits air-raid shelter during Ukraine trip

Kiev has been pushing Berlin to deliver air defence systems
German president visits air-raid shelter during Ukraine trip

German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, spent over an hour in a Ukrainian basement bomb shelter on Tuesday due to an air raid warning, his country’s state broadcaster ARD reported.

Correspondent Rebecca Barth posted an image of Steinmeier and other officials sharing a small room with a crowd of people on Twitter.

No aerial attacks on the city were reported during the day, and the incident coincided with Kiev making a strong appeal for Berlin to deliver Iris-T air defence systems.

To that end, Ukrainian officials had even placed Iris flowers in the president’s train carriage, while he travelled to Kiev, along with cards asking for the equipment.

According to Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, the alarm was raised as the German president was talking to the media in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernigov. The official said it was “a very good illustration why Ukraine needs more air defense systems” as soon as possible.

Berlin pledged to send state-of-the-art launchers to Ukraine back in June. Only one of the four promised units has been delivered so far. On Monday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to deliver the remaining three as quickly as possible.

Kiev has repeatedly criticized Berlin for supposedly not providing enough military assistance and for refusing to send it Leopard battle tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles. The Ukrainians have also requested at least a dozen Iris-Ts, according to some reports.

It’s Steinmeier’s first visit to Ukraine since the start of the conflict between Kiev and Moscow in late February. It was initially planned for last week but was delayed due to security reasons.

The president came to Ukraine to assure it of Berlin’s continued support but focused mostly on infrastructure repairs and “city partnership networks,” according to his spokeswoman, Cerstin Gammelin.

The president also encouraged Germans, who have had to limit their energy consumption and heating temperatures due to an energy crunch partly caused by the EU drive to get rid of Russian energy imports, to “look through the eyes of the Ukrainians for a moment.”