A senior Ukrainian official has denied reports that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had rejected a visit offer from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Germany’s president had claimed that his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda had suggested that they travel to Ukraine together with other leaders to show solidarity, but “that apparently wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.”
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s comments on Tuesday -- made during a visit to Poland -- came after the German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat that the German President was not welcome because of his previous close ties to Russia.
But Serhiy Leshchenko -- an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's chief of staff -- denied the German media reports in an interview with CNN.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has criticised the perceived snub and defended Berlin’s record on delivering weapons to Kyiv.
Steinmeier said Polish President Andrzej Duda had suggested that they travel to the Ukrainian capital with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send “a strong signal of joint European solidarity with Ukraine.”
He said on Tuesday he had been prepared to do so.
Steinmeier last week admitted mistakes in policy toward Russia in his previous job as foreign minister.
The 66-year-old served twice as ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister, most recently from 2013 to 2017, and before that as ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff.
During that time, Germany pursued dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and cultivated close energy ties.
In Warsaw, Steinmeier called on Russia's leader to pull out his troops from Ukraine and stop the "barbarity" there.
He also stressed that Germany will not restore its previous ties with Russia as long as Putin is in power.
“One thing is clear: a return to normal is not possible with Russia under Putin,” Steinmeier said, adding that war crimes in Ukraine must be investigated and “those who committed them and those who are politically responsible must be held accountable.”