Pressure grows on Chancellor Scholz as German delegation visits Ukraine

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A delegation from Germany’s coalition government was visiting Ukraine on Tuesday, a source told AFP, as pressure grew on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to follow other Western leaders to Kyiv.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the liberal FDP, Michael Roth of Scholz’s Social Democrats, and Anton Hofreiter of the Greens were meeting members of the Ukrainian parliament in the west of the country, the source said, confirming a report in Der Spiegel magazine.

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A spokesman for Roth said they were “on their way to Ukraine”, without giving further details “for security reasons.”

The visit from the heads of the German parliament’s committees on defense, foreign affairs and Europe, respectively, is the first trip by a high-level German government delegation since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

But following visits by several other leaders in recent days, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, critics have asked why Scholz himself is not making the trip.

While Johnson was “walking side by side with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv” on Saturday, “Scholz was waving at an election campaign rally in Luebeck” ahead of an upcoming regional vote, the Bild daily noted.

“I wish our chancellor would follow (the example of the other leaders) and get an idea of the situation on the ground,” said the conservative foreign policy expert Roderich Kiesewetter.

Scholz has also come under fire for his hesitancy over sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, despite his dramatic U-turn on Germany’s defense policy prompted by Russia’s invasion.

Germany had been reluctant for historical reasons to send weapons to Ukraine, but it has now sent anti-tank weapons, missile launchers and surface-to-air missiles in response to the conflict.

However, critics want Scholz to go further and deliver heavy weapons such as tanks.

The three politicians visiting Ukraine on Tuesday are all in favor of delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock voiced support for such a move on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

Roth told Deutschlandfunk radio he thought Baerbock’s stance was “certainly correct” and Ukraine must be in a position to “negotiate with Russia from a position of strength and preparedness.”

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