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Germany’s Scholz says Ukraine must help mend ties after president visit debacle

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Ukraine on Wednesday to help unblock an embarrassing diplomatic impasse, after the German president was stopped from visiting Kyiv amid disquiet over his past support of rapprochement with Russia.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany has called Scholz an “offended liver sausage” for refusing to visit the country before President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is welcomed there.

“It is a problem for the German government and for the German people that the president was asked not to come,” Scholz told reporters following talks with his cabinet.

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“Ukraine must also play its part,” he said, without elaborating how.

The row has put an awkward twist on relations at a time when Germany’s opposition to Russia’s invasion is crucial to Ukraine, given its weight in the European Union and the bloc’s deliberations on sanctions against Moscow.

Steinmeier had planned to visit the Ukrainian capital in April but the trip was cancelled, causing a scandal in Germany where policymakers have been scrambling to reverse a long-standing “Wandel durch Handel” - change through trade - approach to dealing with Russia.

Steinmeier, a fellow member of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD), was long considered a proponent of reconciliation with Moscow but he has since conceded that he made mistakes.

German media had previously reported that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused to welcome Steinmeier in Kyiv over his years-long support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany, which was cancelled days before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Highlighting the government’s delay in sending someone to Ukraine, Germany’s main opposition leader, Friedrich Merz of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), visited the war-torn country on Tuesday.

Scholz said he was in touch with his political rival regarding the trip, during which Merz toured the bombed-out town of Irpin before heading to nearby Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy.

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