German Chancellor Olaf Scholz repeated his appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop attacking Ukraine, while he also defended Berlin’s policies amid the war, writes MIA.
“Stop this war, stop the senseless killing, withdraw your troops from Ukraine,” Scholz said. The chancellor also rejected criticism on a number of fronts on Monday, including that he has been too slow to back Kiev, after Berlin initially refused to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine under a policy of not providing arms to parties in conflict. “I have always decided quickly, together with everyone else, coordinated with the allies,” he told broadcaster ZDF.
Scholz emphasized that the financial and military assistance provided by Germany and other states were helping the Ukrainian army succeed and “hold out for so long against such an overpowering opponent.” “Russia must not win and Ukraine must not lose,” said Scholz, describing his policy.
Meanwhile Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht defended Germany’s training of Ukrainian soldiers, saying the government did not see this as its becoming a warring party under international law. Her comments ran counter to guidance provided by a Bundestag advisory service which suggested that the military training could be seen as such. Lambrecht rejected the assessment, as did government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit, who said that everyone could see that Berlin was involved in a difficult balancing act. Some German lawmakers continue to question Berlin’s decision to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons, saying this could lead the conflict closer to NATO’s borders.
The German government has been widely criticized for its response to the war, with many continuing to argue that more effort is needed. But the question of whether Germany’s leaders will travel to the Ukrainian capital remains open, even as it emerged during the weekend that a German minister was planning to visit Kiev. Scholz and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier have not yet travelled to Kiev, with the president having been disinvited in a spat that has yet to be resolved. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday that she plans to travel to Kiev in a show of support.
Opposition leader Friedrich Merz and leftist lawmaker Gregor Gysi of Die Linke (The Left) have also announced plans to travel. Steinmeier was initially planning to go to Kiev in April with Polish President Andrzej Duda and the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, but was told he was not welcome shortly before he planned to depart. At the time, the Ukrainian government expressed a preference for the German chancellor to come instead, saying he was better placed to make key policy decisions. The exchange came as Germany remained reluctant to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons.
Those exchanges mean no members of the German government have travelled to Kiev since the war began, even though many other leaders have done so, from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to UN Secretary General António Guterres. Baerbock would be the first member of the German government to head to Kiev, although she said she had initially waited to allow Steinmeier to go first. When asked about his own plans to travel, Scholz said the earlier spat was “getting in the way,” saying of the disinvitation of Steinmeier: “You just can’t do that.”
It cannot be “that a country that provides so much military aid, that provides so much financial aid, that is needed when it comes to the security guarantees that are important for Ukraine’s time in the future, that you then say: But the president is not allowed to come,” Scholz told ZDF. Since the cancelled visit, Steinmeier has conceded shortcomings in Russian policy during his earlier tenure as foreign minister, specifically in his assessment of Putin and on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
But while Scholz was defensive on Berlin’s policies, he echoed criticism of former chancellor Gerhard Schröder for his failure to back Ukraine and condemn the Kremlin’s war. Schröder, who heads the supervisory board of the Russian state energy giant Rosneft and chairs the shareholders’ committee of pipeline company Nord Stream, has failed to offer any criticism of Putin in the wake of Moscow’s invasion. Scholz called on Schröder to resign from his posts at the Russian state-owned companies, calling it “completely unjustifiable, impossible since at least the beginning of the war” for the former chancellor to continue to perform these duties.