Berlin Shouldn’t Tolerate Conspiracy Theories Spread by Ukrainian Officials, Ex-Vice Chancellor Says
12:02 GMT 17.04.2022 (Updated: 12:19 GMT 17.04.2022)
Relations between Ukraine and Germany took a turn for the worse last week after Ukrainian authorities informed President Frank-Walter Steinmeier that he was “not wanted in Kiev” over his supposed “close ties to Russia”. Ukrainian officials said Steinmeier can visit when Berlin puts an embargo on Russian energy and sends Kiev more weapons and money.
Former German Vice Chancellor and Social Democratic Party leader Sigmar Gabriel has slammed Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk over his push to brand President Steinmeier as a Russian agent of influence, calling such allegations a “dangerous” conspiracy theory.
“The disinvitation of German Head of State Frank-Walter Steinmeier from a planned visit to Kiev is unprecedented and disconcerting”, Gabriel wrote
in an op-ed published by Spiegel on Sunday.
Suggesting that Kiev had every right to express “disappointment, anger and incomprehension” toward European politicians for their perceived lack of action on decoupling themselves from Russia economically in light of recent events (a policy being actively pushed by the United States
and its key European allies
, including Poland and the Baltic states), the politician suggested that “what we should not accept, however, are conspiracy theories about our country’s politics and the people in charge”.
“This includes the allegations, also reported on by the German media, that Steinmeier, his successors and the chancellor supported a reduction of sanctions which were imposed on Russia…without any preconditions”, Gabriel suggested.
“A far more dangerous variant of conspiracy theory is the claim by Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, that Steinmeier, throughout his time as a politician, ‘has been creating a spider’s web of contacts with Russia for decades’, and which has had an effect right up to the present government”, the CDU politician wrote.
Such claims are “untruthful and malicious”, Gabriel stressed, adding that as foreign minister, Steinmeier and then-Chancellor Angela Merkel “did more than anyone else in Europe to support Ukraine”.
Ambassador Melnyk wrote his own op-ed
in Germany’s Tagesspiel newspaper earlier this month accusing Steinmeier of suspiciously close ties to Russia, and suggesting that “for Steinmeier, the relationship with Russia was and remains something fundamental, even sacred, no matter what happens”.
Melnyk went on to claim that Steinmeier doesn’t care about Ukrainians and doesn’t consider them to be a real people, and blasted Berlin for having “too many” vested interests in Russia, particularly in energy, with Steinmeier said to be partially to blame for this state of affairs.
Steinmeier cut short a diplomatic tour of Eastern Europe this week after being told
in no uncertain terms that he would be unwelcome in Kiev.
Ihor Zhovka, deputy chief of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, later said Steinmeier could visit after Berlin put an embargo on Russian oil, provided Kiev with guarantees on accession to the European Union, or provided the country with economic aid or heavy military equipment. Zhovka also took a dig at Berlin’s policy vis-à-vis Russia, suggesting that countries that are “friendly” to Ukraine cannot “make any exceptions for the energy sector, banking or certain members of [Russia’s] political establishment”.
President Zelensky later told reporters that he had no idea that Steinmeier planned to visit.
German officials have expressed frustration with Ambassador Melnyk’s conduct since long before the escalation of the Ukraine crisis. In early February, Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that the envoy was “considered a pain in the a**” in German political circles, to the point where they would do their best to avoid meeting with him.
In January, Melnyk sought to guilt-trip Berlin
into sending lethal weapons to Kiev, suggesting that Germans have the same obligation to Ukraine today as they have to Israel due to Nazi war crimes. Last year, he warned that Ukraine may have to build nukes
if it wasn’t allowed to join NATO.
Germany has delivered nearly two billion euros-worth of assistance to Kiev since the 2014 US-backed coup, which Steinmeier participated in in his capacity as German foreign minister. The country refused to send lethal military equipment to Kiev until February, when it promised 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger portable anti-aircraft missiles.
Berlin has so far ruled out putting an embargo on Russian energy supplies amid fears that doing so could spark the worst economic crisis since World War II
. At the same time, authorities have made a push to slowly wean the country off of Russian oil and gas, encouraging ordinary Germans
to put on sweaters to stay warm, wash less to save energy, and ride bicycles to save on fuel.