Thursday, May 5, 2022

After the rejection of Steinmeier Baerbock, Merz and Gysi want to go to Kyiv

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Top German politicians have avoided the Ukrainian capital since the beginning of the war unlike the heads of state and government of other western countries. That is changing now.

After the cancellation of the visit to Kyiv by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) now wants to be the first member of the government to travel to the Ukrainian capital since the beginning of the war. “Yes, I will also travel,” she said on Sunday evening on the ARD program “Anne Will”. She had already planned the trip after the war crimes in the Kiev suburb of Bucha became known. But then she initially wanted to let the Federal President go first, who was then “unfortunately” uninvited again. But that doesn’t mean “that I won’t drive in the future”.

Member of the Bundestag Gregor Gysi (archive): A three-person delegation from the left wants to travel to Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and Lviv. (Source: BeckerBredel/imago images)

It had already become known over the weekend that opposition leader Friedrich Merz was also planning a trip to Kyiv. The left-wing foreign politician Gregor Gysi even wants to spend almost a whole week in the Ukraine from Tuesday – and without permission from the Bundestag and without personal protection from the Federal Criminal Police Office. From Tuesday to Sunday, in addition to the capital Kyiv, he will also visit the suburbs of Bucha and Irpin as well as the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said his parliamentary group spokesman Michael Schlick. He will be accompanied by the left candidate in the federal presidential election last February, Gerhard Trabert.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit continued to keep a low profile on possible travel plans by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Chancellor’s trips would only be announced shortly beforehand, he said simply. Since the war began a good two months ago, several EU heads of state and government have traveled to Kyiv to express their solidarity with the country attacked by Russia. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU Council President Charles Michel and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have also been there.

Steinmeier wanted to travel to Kyiv with Polish President Andrzej Duda and the heads of state of the three Baltic states in mid-April, but was then unloaded a few hours before the planned departure. That caused outrage in Germany and didn’t exactly increase the chances of a chancellor’s trip to Kyiv. The invitation was “a bit irritating, to say it politely,” said Scholz at the time. “The Federal President would have liked to go to the Ukraine,” said the Chancellor, “that’s why it would have been good to receive him.”

So far, only members of the Bundestag from Germany have been in Ukraine since the beginning of the war – and they have not been in the capital Kyiv either. The three chairmen of the committees for foreign affairs, defense and Europe – Michael Roth (SPD), Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP) and Anton Hofreiter (Greens) – traveled to Lviv in western Ukraine and combined their visit with the demand for the delivery of heavy goods Weapons.

Strack-Zimmermann emphasized in “Anne Will” how important it is to prepare well for such a trip. “It’s not a coffee ride, who’s there first and takes the best photos,” she said. “I don’t think the chancellor will let himself drift.” If you go, you have to bring something with you. “That means you have to be very specific.”

CDU party chairman Friedrich Merz: "I did not request support from the BKA and the BKA did not offer it either."  (Source: dpa/Oliver Berg)CDU party chairman Friedrich Merz: “I did not request support from the BKA and the BKA did not offer it either.” (Source: Oliver Berg/dpa)

Baerbock may now be the first member of the federal government to visit Kyiv since the beginning of the war. Neither did she give an appointment for a trip, nor did Merz. The CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader tweeted on Monday that the Federal Criminal Police Office had been informed by his office about a possible trip to Kyiv. “I did not request an accompaniment by the BKA and the BKA did not offer it either.” The “Tagesspiegel” had previously reported that the BKA had advised Merz not to travel.

Gysi is also traveling without the BKA. Group spokesman Schlick said that the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Bundestag Presidium had suggested a one-day trip to the three-person delegation, which included Gysi and Trabert as well as himself. But they refused and are now traveling without BKA protection and without approval from the Bundestag.

Visits to hospitals, emergency clinics and discussions with representatives of aid organizations are planned. Meetings with Ukrainian parliamentarians or the government in Kyiv are not yet planned. Schlick explained that Gysi had asked the Ukrainian ambassador Andriy Melnyk to mediate talks, but had received no answer. “The members of the delegation regret this, but they are not canceling the trip because humanitarian aid is more important.”

Trabert wants to give a clinic a dermatome donated by the association “Poverty and Health in Germany” for skin transplantation. This association would hand over 20,000 euros and 6,000 euros to aid organizations and 6,000 euros from the parliamentary group and individuals.

Union faction vice Johann Wadephul (CDU) spoke in the ARD program “Anne Will” with a view to the planned trip to Merz from an important sign. CSU defense politician Florian Hahn called on Scholz to travel to Ukraine like the leader of the opposition. “Words must also be followed by deeds,” Hahn told the newspapers of the Funke media group (Monday). “Anyone who, like the Federal Chancellor, proclaimed the turning point and then went into hiding for weeks on end, leaves an uneasy feeling, and not just among allies.”

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