Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has rejected a request by the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to visit Kyiv along with other European politicians on Wednesday.
Steinmeier, a former foreign minister and erstwhile ally of the ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder, is on a state visit in Poland, where he is discussing the implications of the Russian war in Ukraine with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda.
According to a report in the German newspaper Bild, Steinmeier had planned to travel to Kyiv with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on Wednesday. However, his request for a meeting was rejected by Zelenskiy, with Bild citing the reason as the German Social Democrat’s previously close ties to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and his history of him as an advocate of close Russian-German economic ties.
“We all here know Steinmeier’s close ties to Russia, which have also been marked by the Steinmeier formula,” an anonymous Ukrainian diplomat told Bild. “He is currently not welcome in Kyiv. We will see whether that will change one day.”
The “Steinmeier formula” was a proposal made by the then foreign minister in 2016 with the intention of breaking a deadlock in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia over peace in eastern Ukraine. The proposal, a simplified version of the Minsk agreements, called for elections in the separatist-held territories under Ukrainian legislation, supervised by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The attempt failed after neither Moscow nor Kyiv implemented the Minsk agreement.
On Tuesday afternoon, Steinmeier seemed to confirm that his request for a meeting with Zelenskiy in Kyiv had been rejected by Ukraine. The German president said he had wanted to travel to Kyiv “to send out a strong message of European solidarity with Ukraine”.
“I was prepared,” Steinmeier said. “But apparently – and I have to acknowledge this – it was not desired in Kyiv.”
The embarrassing rejection comes as Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has come under fire for not having traveled to Ukraine himself so far, unlike the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the EU leader, Ursula von der Leyen.
Steinmeier has recently conceded the failure of his past strategy of western rapprochement with Moscow.
“My sticking to [the Baltic Sea pipeline project] Nord Stream 2, that was definitely a mistake,” he said in Berlin on 4 April. “We held on to bridges that Russia no longer believed in, and of which our partners warned us.”
He added: “We failed to build a common European house. I did not believe Vladimir Putin would embrace his country’s complete economic, political and moral ruin for the sake of his imperial madness. ”