Volodymyr Zelensky challenges Olaf Scholz to visit Kyiv and prove German unity

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Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has invited Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, to visit Kyiv after weeks of diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky

The Ukrainian President, who has previously accused Berlin of being too close to Moscow, said that Mr Scholz should visit on Russia’s Victory Day. Victory Day is celebrated in Russia every year to mark the anniversary of the victory of the USSR over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Mr Zelensky told a Chatham House event that, despite Mr Scholz refusing to visit Kyiv so far due to a diplomatic snub to the German President, his visit on the day would be highly symbolic. He said: “He’s invited to come to Ukraine. He can make this very powerful political step by coming on May 9.

“Sometimes in history, we have to make certain steps for unity… even if there is some kind of coldness in specific relations.” Relations between Berlin and Kyiv have been poor since the start of the war in February. Kyiv has accused Berlin of dithering on arms shipments and energy sanctions on Russia.

Germany is heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies and was due to open the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Russia before Mr Scholz cancelled the project when the war started. Mr Scholz’s predecessor as Chancellor Angela Merkel also had a more positive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin than other European leaders, it has been reported.

Due to the legacy of the Second World War, German leaders are usually more cautious about militarisation than other European leaders. Despite criticism from Ukraine, Mr Scholz has performed a number of political U-turns since the start of the conflict.

He dropped Berlin’s policy of not sending weapons into conflict zones while at the same time vowing to increase German defence spending to the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP. The SDP Chancellor has also sent arms shipments to Ukraine, including seven self-propelled Howitzers. However, the decision only came after sustained pressure from Ukraine and its closest Western allies.

In a video shared on social media by a Ukrainian MP, a woman draped in a Ukrainian flag could be seen towing away two Russian T-34 tanks from the Soviet Memorial in Berlin. The tanks were used by the Red Army to defeat the Nazis at the Battle of Berlin in 1945. It symbolises the efforts of Ukrainian farmers filmed towing away Russian tanks and other captured military hardware.

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