German police remove Ukraine flag near war memorial
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The eastern European nation was one of three former Soviet nations to apply for EU membership following Russia’s invasion of the country in February, in a bid to draw it closer to its Western allies. Meanwhile, the German Government has faced extensive criticism for its sluggish and limited response to the war.
Annalena Baerbock met with senior Ukrainian officials during a visit to Ukraine’s war-torn capital to reopen the German embassy there, following a similar move by the UK at the end of April.
There, she also voiced her support for a war crimes investigation into the alleged atrocities which are said to have taken place against civilians in Bucha, a satellite city of Kyiv, as Russian troops withdrew from the region.
The German Foreign Minister is the first member of her Government to visit Ukraine since war broke out nearly three months ago.
Boris Johnson was the first world leader to make a surprise visit to Kyiv in April, meeting President Volodymyr Zelensky and walking the streets of the city in a “show of solidarity”.
Meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, today, Ms Baerbock said that “Ukraine belongs to the European Union”, according to Michaela Kuefner, DW political correspondent.
She said “there can be no shortcuts to full membership of the EU”, but emphasised that Germany was serious about “full membership”.
Ms Baerbock added: “Now is not the moment for legal pedantry. Now is the moment to take a clear position.”
Mr Zelensky signed an application for his country to join the bloc at the end of February, requesting that Ukraine be allowed immediate entry in the face of the Russian attack.
At the time, he said: “Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal.
“I am confident that it is fair. I am confident we have deserved it. I am confident that all this is possible.”
The bid from Ukraine to join the EU prompted similar applications from Moldova and Georgia – both nations suffered a similar Russian invasion in 2008.
Despite the apparent enthusiasm for Ukraine joining the economic bloc that Germany has dominated for many years, it has been called out for its reticence towards affording Ukraine aid.
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Chancellor Olaf Scholz is said to be reluctant to ban imports of Russian fossil fuels over fears of the impact it would have on the German economy, which relies on heavy industry.
After the EU as a whole announced it would divest itself of Russian energy by the end of the year, Germany said it would reduce its dependency “to zero”, but had so far resisted an immediate ban.
According to figures quoted by several sources, since the invasion, Germany has reduced its dependency on Russian oil from 35 percent of its consumption to just 12 percent.
However, it has only reduced its dependence on Russian gas imports from 55 to 35 percent, making its economy overly reliant on an aggressive nation.
Whereas Britain has been supply Ukraine with defensive weaponry since January, it was only after the invasion that Mr Scholz broke a long-held tradition of not supplying weapons to a nation actively involved in conflict.
However, that has courted controversy, too. Germany previously faced criticism after Ukrainian officials claimed it had sent unusable missiles that had been stored since the Soviet era in mouldy boxes.
And last month, Markus Laubenthal, Germany’s deputy chief of staff, denied supplying Ukraine with a hundred Marber tanks, claiming that the central European nation would not be able to properly defend itself if it did.
The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, said that Germany had 400 of the tanks Ukraine had requested, and that the excuse was “incomprehensible”.
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