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Ukraine: German President Steinmeier visits Kyiv

October 25, 2022

A few days after Frank-Walter Steinmeier canceled a trip for security reasons, he has finally made his first trip to the Ukrainian capital since the Russian invasion. He was forced to seek shelter during his visit.

Steinmeier  meets Ukrainian officials in a bunker
Steinmeier was forced to retreat to an air-raid bunker in the town of Koryukivka northeast of KyivImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday.

It is Steinmeier's first trip to Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24.

"My message to the Ukrainians is that we are not only standing by your side. We will continue to support Ukraine, economically, politically and also militarily," the president said after his arrival.

His message to Germans at home, Steinmeier said, was: "Let's not forget what this war means for the people here in Ukraine. How much suffering, how much destruction there is. The people in Ukraine need us."

"It was important to me, especially now in this phase of air attacks with drones, cruise missiles and rockets, to send a message of solidarity to the Ukrainians," he added.

The president also said that he was "very happy" to be in the country, and praised Ukrainians' "courage, fortitude, and unyieldingness."

In a press conference later, Steinmeier reiterated Germany's support for Ukraine, adding that Berlin would keep supporting the country.

"Today I was able to look at this war through the eyes of Ukraine for a day. I am full of sincere admiration for the courage, tenacity and will for freedom of the Ukrainians," Steinmeier said.

The German president had been expected in Ukraine last Thursday. However, the trip was canceled at short notice due to the tense security situation, as Kyiv was bombed by Russian missiles and drones.

An official from his office said that security authorities in Germany and the Foreign Ministry had advised Steinmeier not to go but that the visit would be rescheduled soon.

However, other leaders continued to visit Kyiv. For example, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis visited the Ukrainian capital on the same day that Steinmeier was due to be there.

Meetings in an air-raid shelter

Steinmeier held talks with Ukrainian officials during a Russian air raid in the town of Koryukivka northeast of Kyiv, the German DPA news agency reported.

The officials conducted their meeting inside an air-raid shelter, where the president spent the first hour and a half of his visit to the town. The Ukrainian air force said the alarm sounded due to Russia launching some 10 Iranian-designed combat drones in Belarus.

"That gave us a particularly vivid sense of the conditions under which people were living here," DPA quoted Steinmeier as saying.

Failed visit in April

Steinmeier was already planning a trip to Kyiv in April — together with the Presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. However, the Ukrainian government disinvited Steinmeier, citing his Russian-friendly stance in recent years as the reason.

The Ukrainian position angered German politicians. Steinmeier himself had previously admitted to making mistakes over policy towards Russia. 

It wasn't until the beginning of May that Steinmeier and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy finally managed to clear the diplomatic air with a telephone call. The Ukrainian president personally invited Steinmeier to visit Ukraine.

Several German politicians have since traveled to the war-torn country, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

dh/rt (dpa, Reuters)