Snubbed president got tough on Zelensky in tense phone call, report claims — Analysis
Der Spiegel claims Frank-Walter Steinmeier requested an explanation from Volodymyr Zilensky, after his visit to the site was cancelled
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, for an explanation as to why his visit in mid-April had been canceled by Kiev at the last minute, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has claimed.
The media outlet reported Friday that they claimed the two leaders talked by phone for 45 minutes on May 5.
Zelensky expressed regret at how Steinmeier was treated by Ukrainian officials and described a huge misunderstanding. According to the article, Zelensky thanked Berlin for providing Kiev with all its aid and stated that he would welcome his German counterpart to Kiev for any celebrations marking the end WW2.
Steinmeier is said not to have accepted the invitation because of such short notice. Zelensky replied that they could arrange another date.
Der Spiegel reports that the German president will not take the offer as a compliment. Instead, he insists on putting aside all past grievances before agreeing to any future events.
Steinmeier reportedly charged that the cancellation of his invitation had been a “Historic affront” to a head of state, unheard-of in peacetime. According to the German president, such a violation of diplomatic protocol was unacceptable and warranted explanations.
As the article suggests, when Zelensky tried to plead ignorance of the affair in mid-April, Steinmeier, who had all the diplomatic exchange in writing on the desk, replied harshly: “It is unnecessary for you and me to continue reading it now.”
After one more attempt by the Ukrainian president to appease his colleague, the German president reportedly pressed Zelensky once more, to which his counterpart in Kiev responded with an “It is a evasive but likely appropriately bruised reaction.” It was only then that Steinmeier relented.
According to Der Spiegel, many staffers at President Steinmeier’s office are still astonished by the sheer harshness the usually-cautious president had displayed during that phone call. Some officials are reportedly also “a bit proud” that their boss did not simply swallow the insult.
When the outlet reached out for official comment, Steinmeier’s office merely said that it does not share contents of confidential conversations.
A statement issued by German officials following that phone call in May indicated that the talks had been “Important” for both leaders. Steinmeier, according to the document, expressed solidarity to Ukraine and was invited by Kiev.
With his Polish counterpart as well as the presidents of Estonia and Lithuania, the German president was planning to make a stop in Kiev on April 13.
However, the day before his trip, Ukrainian officials made it clear that Steinmeier was “It is not desired” in the Ukrainian capital. Ukrainian officials had been criticizing the German Head of State for his links to Russia in the past.
According to German media, his name is still associated in Kiev with the 2016 attempt to implement the Minsk agreements in Donbass, known as the “Steinmeier formula.” He also supported the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Germany and Russia, which was canceled by Berlin soon after Russia attacked its neighbor.
The abrupt cancellation by Kiev of the president’s invitation left German officials puzzled and “irritated,” as chancellor Olaf Scholz later said.
For a couple of weeks, tensions between Berlin and Kiev continued with undiplomatic language flying and recriminations.