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Germany 'ready to pay high economic price' for Ukraine peace

February 7, 2022

For the second time in a month, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Kyiv amid tensions with Russia. Diplomatic sources say her meeting with President Zelenskyy has been canceled.

Annalena Baerbock alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv
Baerbock gave a press conference alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba after the pair visited a monument that honors Holodomor victims in KyivImage: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Ukraine on Monday for the second time in just three weeks amid fears of a Russian invasion.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly expressed frustration at Germany's refusal to sell weapons to Ukraine — as well as blocking other countries from doing the same. 

Baerbock gave a press conference after meeting her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba. At the conference, Germany's top diplomat said Berlin is willing to "pay a high economic price" should sanctions be required against Russia. Germany and its partners had prepared "a series of tough measures" against Moscow to be used if the Ukraine conflict escalates.

"The security of Ukraine is at stake," Baerbock said.

Her comments come after Economy Minister Robert Habeck called for Germany to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas as tensions remain over the Ukraine standoff. The German government remains divided on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which is meant to transport Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Although the construction of the pipeline has been completed, it has not started transporting gas and the project is currently on hold.

What's on the agenda for Baerbock in Ukraine?

The German foreign minister was due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, the meeting was canceled due to what diplomatic sources described as "scheduling difficulties." A meeting is now planned with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal instead.

The topic of arms exports is expected to be high on the agenda for the talks.

Baerbock has visited a memorial to those who died during Holodomor, the deadly famine in the Soviet-ruled Ukraine in 1930s. She is also due to visit a military hospital funded by Germany. On Tuesday, Baerbock is set to go to eastern Ukraine and visit the front line between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.

Baerbock's last visit was part of a two-day tour to Kyiv and Moscow in January. During that trip, she also held the German government's line on not selling weapons to so-called crisis regions.

Kyiv has made a request to its western partners, including Germany, for an array of weapons, including anti-aircraft systems, anti-drone weapons, night-vision equipment, surveillance cameras and ammunition.

The Ukrainian embassy in Berlin said what it is asking for is a "weapons system of a defensive nature."

Russia expert Stefan Meister at the German Council on Foreign Relations told DW on Monday about why he thinks the talks in Kyiv are significant. He says Baerbock's visit shows "Germany and the European Union are more active on this conflict."

"So it's not only up to the US, but it's about European security. And to also show unity with smaller countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe," Meister said.

What are the latest diplomatic developments regarding Ukraine?

Germany and France have both pushed for a return to the Normandy format of discussions which first took place in 2014 when Russia occupied the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. It involves talks between Russian, Ukrainian, German and French delegations.

Baerbock's return to Kyiv came on the same day German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made his inaugural visit as German leader to the White House, where he discussed the situation in Ukraine with US President Joe Biden.

French President Emmanuel Macron also headed to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to de-escalate the heightened tensions with the West.

The aim of the various diplomatic visits to Kyiv, Washington and Moscow is to negotiate a way out of a possible armed conflict in Ukraine.

jsi, ab/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)