Germany’s new Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has blasted Russia in his inaugural speech for exploiting Ukraine’s economic plight to prevent it from signing a free-trade and political association pact with the EU.
The Social Democrat (SPD) returned on Tuesday to the post he held during Angela Merkel’s first “grand coalition” government from 2005-2009.
Merkel’s conservatives came out on top in a federal election in September but were forced into another alliance with the centre-left.
“It is utterly scandalous how Russia used Ukraine’s economic plight for its own ends, also in order to prevent the signing of the association agreement with the EU. Of course, the violent behavior of the Ukrainian security forces towards peaceful demonstrators was also scandalous,” Steinmeier said.
Steinmeier will travel to Poland on Thursday, December 19 to discuss Ukraine.
During his inauguration, he repeated questions raised by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski about whether the EU had underestimated how divided Ukraine was and how determined Moscow was.
“I say quite openly I have no answers to that. But I’m certain we need to be able to answer that before we can respond to calls for help in stabilising the situation there.”
One of the opposition leaders in Ukraine, Vitaly Klitschko, has called on Steinmeier to visit the Kyiv’s Independence Square and mediate.
It was earlier announced that Russia has slashed gas prices for Ukraine by a third and will buy nearly 11 billion euros of Ukraine’s government bonds.
Analysts say that Steinmeier and the SPD are viewed as more pragmatic towards Russia than Merkel’s conservatives.