KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Germany's conservative opposition leader traveled to Kyiv on Tuesday for meetings with Ukrainian officials, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz made clear that he wouldn't be visiting Ukraine any time soon.
Scholz has traded barbs with Ukrainian officials in recent weeks because of Kyiv's refusal to invite Germany's head of state, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom Ukraine accuses of cozying up to Russia during his time as foreign minister.
“It can’t work that a country that provides so much military aid, so much financial aid ... you then say that the president can’t come,” Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF late Monday.
Ukraine's ambassador in Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, responded Tuesday by calling Scholz's refusal to visit “not very statesmanlike.”
“This is about the most brutal war of extermination since the Nazi invasion of Ukraine, it’s not kindergarten,” he said.
Opposition leader Friedrich Merz, who heads former Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc, visited the town of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, to see the destruction caused by the Russian army.
He was expected later to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, the chairman of Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, and other senior politicians in Kyiv. A meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wasn't expected.
The Union bloc joined the country's three governing parties in a symbolic vote backing the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine last week — a position supported by the majority of Germans. Critics, particularly on the far-left and right, have argued against the move, saying Germany risks being drawn into a conflict with Russia.
Merz's visit to Kyiv comes days before two German state elections in which his Christian Democratic Union is hoping to retain power.
The Associated Press