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Controversial Ukrainian envoy leaves Germany for Kyiv

Amanda Rivkin
October 15, 2022

Ambassador Andrij Melnyk's best-known diplomatic scandal is telling German Chancellor Olaf Scholz not to be "an offended liver sausage," although his latest public spat saw him use profanity in response to Elon Musk.

Outgoing Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk
The outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk is expected to take up a post as the deputy foreign minister in KyivImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Long-serving Ukrainian ambassador Andrij Melnyk left Berlin for Kyiv on Saturday and is expected to take up a new job in the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He departed his official residence at around 10 a.m. in Berlin.

On Monday, his replacement Oleksii Makeiev is scheduled to take the reins at the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin.

The change will not become official until Makeiev formally presents his credentials and receives his accreditation from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. No date for that appointment has been set yet.

Who is outgoing Ambassador Melnyk?

Andrij Melnyk, 47, was named ambassador to Germany in January of 2015, the year after protests in Kyiv's central Maidan Square ousted Russian-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych and Russia annexed Crimea while initiating hostilities in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

During his time in Berlin, Melnyk took a critical stance of Germany's leadership and its attitudes towards Russia. He was unusually outspoken for an ambassador as he made the rounds as a guest frequently on German news talk shows.

Since February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Melnyk became something of a public figure in Germany. He repeatedly called on the German government to deliver battle tanks and antiaircraft systems and criticized any delays or hesitation, regular occurrences in a country steeped in pacifism in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Air defense for Ukraine: A game changer?

Months ago it was announced Melnyk's tenure in Berlin would come to an end. That news came shortly after Melnyk said positive things about Stepan Bandera in the German press. 

Bandera was a far-right Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with Nazi Germany before he was arrested and later released by the Gestapo. After the war, Bandera lived with his family in West Germany until he was shot and killed by the Soviet KGB security agency in Munich in 1959.

What was the controversy between Melnyk and Scholz?

Melnyk previously called German Chancellor Olaf Scholz an "offended liver sausage" back in May as Scholz came under pressure to visit Ukraine. In German, the expression means someone who is childish or easily offended.

Scholz was initially reluctant to make the trip to Kyiv because Ukraine had refused a visit by Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The conservative president, whose current office is mostly symbolic, had previously served as Germany's foreign minister. 

Melnyk had accused Steinmeier of cultivating a "web of contacts with Russia" and said Steinmeier saw his ties with Moscow as "fundamental — even sacred." For his part, Steinmeier has expressed his dismay over Putin's invasion of Ukraine, but the comments were not enough to change Melnyk's perception of the German politician.

Chancellor Scholz eventually visited Kyiv in June, and days later Melnyk pledged to apologize Scholz in person.

But Melnyk's statements and tweets continued to draw attention. This month, the ambassador used insulting profanity against Elon Musk when Musk tweeted out a so-called peace plan that seemed to mirror of Moscow's talking points.

What does Melnyk say about his time in Berlin?

Melnyk told German news agency DPA, "I think I have succeeded in getting the Germans interested in the issue of Ukraine, to make sure that Ukraine is really recognized and understood here."

He added, "When I come home now, it fills me with pride that many weapons systems have been delivered from Germany, which will help us to keep the occupied territories and liberate our compatriots step by step."

As he departed Berlin, he said more military hardware is still needed "to expel the Russians."

In an interview with the newspaper Berliner Zeitung published Saturday, he said, "I should have been even more undiplomatic many years ago to be able to prevent with German help this barbaric war by Russia.” 

What is Melnyk's new job?

Melnyk is expected to be given the job of deputy foreign minister when he returns to Ukraine, though a decision has not been made official yet. It is a post he has held before.

As he left the country, Melnyk told German news agency DPA, "I will probably see President Zelenskyy on Tuesday. And he will then hopefully tell me in person where he sees me in his great team."

Edited by: Darko Janjevic