Germany's president and Zelenskyy resolve diplomatic row
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke by phone with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, following friction that Chancellor Olaf Scholz had said would likely prevent him from visiting the war-torn country until it was resolved.
Zelenskyy said he had a "good, constructive, important conversation" with Steinmeier.
"Thanked for strong support for Ukraine," Zelenskyy wrote in his tweet. "Expect it to be intensified. German leadership is important to counter Russian aggression."
'Solidarity and respect'
"The German president expressed his solidarity, respect, and support for the Ukrainian people's courageous fight against the Russian aggressors," a spokesperson for the German presidency said. "Both presidents described the discussion as very important and very good."
"Irritations of the past were cleared up," the spokesperson said, apparently referring to a perceived diplomatic snub to the German head of state. The spokesperson added that the two presidents had agreed to remain in close contact.
Steinmeier had planned to go to Kyiv with leaders from Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania in mid-April. However, he was told not to come at short notice. The refusal was thought to have been linked to Steinmeier's policy of detente towards Russia when he served as German foreign minister.
Chancellor Scholz said that the situation had become a problem and that it could also prevent him from visiting Ukraine while the issue remained unresolved.
A few hours after news of the presidents' phone call, at an evening press conference in Berlin with his Czech counterpart, Scholz told journalists that Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock would soon be traveling to Ukraine. Scholz called this "a good thing," but did not comment as yet on potential personal travel plans.
Merz in Ukraine
Earlier this week, opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) visited Ukraine, with the trip widely seen as an opportunity to upstage Scholz of the rival Social Democrats (SPD).
Merz visited the city of Irpin, outside of Kyiv, which is now back under Ukrainian control. After meeting with the mayor, Merz said he "impressed upon me in very moving words, what happened here. What the victims here have suffered, but also what an incredible effort they made," to protect their city.
"I think it is our duty in Germany to help this country and to help cities like Irpin to rebuild."
Following Thursday's phone call between Steinmeier and Zelenskyy, presidency sources said off the record that the German head of state and Scholz had both been invited to Kyiv.
Merz also responded to the news, writing on Twitter: "I am grateful to President Zelenskyy that he followed my request to invite the federal president. The path is clear for personal encounters between the German president and chancellor and President Zelenskyy in Kyiv."
Bas to visit Ukraine
Meanwhile, Bundestag President (or house speaker) Bärbel Bas has announced her intention to visit Ukraine after an invitation from her Ukrainian counterpart, Ruslan Stefanchuk, according to news agency DPA.
Bas will hold talks with Stefanchuk and the pair will jointly pay their respects to the victims of World War II as part of the Day of Remembrance on May 8.
jsi/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)