German opposition leader visits Ukraine, as Scholz refuses to surrender

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Germany’s conservative opposition leader traveled to Kyiv on Tuesday for meetings with Ukrainian officials, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz making it clear he won’t be visiting Ukraine anytime soon.

Scholz has traded barbs with Ukrainian officials in recent weeks over kyiv’s refusal to invite German head of state President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom Ukraine accuses of getting closer to Russia as he was Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“It can’t work that a country that provides so much military aid, so much financial aid… then you say the president can’t come,” Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF on Monday evening.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, responded on Tuesday by calling Scholz’s refusal to surrender “not very political.”

“This is the most brutal war of extermination since the Nazi invasion of Ukraine, this is not kindergarten,” he said.

The opposition leader, who leads former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc, visited the town of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, to witness the destruction caused by the Russian army.

German Christian Democratic Party (CDU) Chairman Friedrich Merz, center, walks surrounded by media in Irpin, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

He was later to meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Speaker of Ukraine’s unicameral parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk and other senior politicians in Kyiv. A meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was not planned.

The Union bloc joined the country’s three ruling parties in a token vote backing the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine last week – a stance backed by the majority of Germans. Critics, especially on the far left and right, opposed the move, saying Germany risked being drawn into a conflict with Russia.

Merz’s visit to Kyiv comes days before two German national elections in which his Christian Democratic Union hopes to retain power.

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