Ukraine sets out expectations for Scholz visit
Germany’s leadership should accept the economic price for cutting ties with Russia, and support Ukraine without taking Moscow's possible response into consideration, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview published by German media on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian leader spoke to ZDF television ahead of a visit Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly plans to make to Kiev later this month, alongside the leaders of France and Italy. Zelensky urged Scholz to voice clear support for Kiev’s EU accession bid.
“I expect that he will personally support us and say that he is confident that Ukraine can join the EU and that candidate status will be granted to Ukraine as early as June,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Zelensky questioned Scholz’s efforts to balance support for Ukraine with maintaining relations with Russia, and urged Germany to pick sides, branding any attempt to avoid economic harm by appeasing Moscow as “wrong.”
“I believe the right choice is that of truth, human rights, the right to freedom and national sovereignty and international law. I think those are more important than some economic priorities,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Kiev has repeatedly accused Germany of failing to provide enough support. The Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, Andrey Melnik, infamously called Scholz an “offended liverwurst” for not personally visiting Ukraine. The chancellor declined to travel there after Kiev refused to host President Frank-Walter Steinmeier over his alleged anti-Ukrainian policies during his tenure as German foreign minister.
During the interview, the Ukrainian leader reiterated that he had no intention to engage in peace talks with Russia, unless a full withdrawal of Russian troops is offered. He claimed the best path towards peace was arming Ukraine, allowing its troops to “advance faster”.
Following weeks of Russian advances in Donbass, Zelensky acknowledged that Ukraine is suffering heavy losses, but said the army is driven by a righteous cause.
ZDF asked about US President Joe Biden’s accusation that Zelensky failed to heed US warnings of an imminent Russian attack. The Ukrainian president shifted the blame, saying Western nations should have done a better job deterring Moscow.
“Why was the [Ukrainian] airspace not closed? Why didn’t they supply us [with] weapons before this invasion and why did they not introduce provisional sanctions [so] that the president of Russia was discouraged from attacking?” he asked.
Western nations have refused to shoot down Russian warplanes in Ukrainian airspace, fearing being dragged into a direct conflict with Moscow. They have armed Ukraine with man-portable anti-tank and anti-air missiles and a range of other military equipment, while declining to send heavier weapons.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.