On his first visit to Germany after the start of the Russian war of aggression, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyj is received by the Federal President and the Chancellor.
During his visit to Berlin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Germany for its support in defending against Russia’s war of aggression. “During the most difficult period in Ukraine’s modern history, Germany has proven to be our true friend and reliable ally, standing resolutely on the side of the Ukrainian people in the fight to defend freedom and democratic values,” Zelenskyi wrote at the reception on Sunday by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in English in the guest book. He added: “Together we will win and bring peace back to Europe.”
Selenskyj expressly thanked Steinmeier personally for his support. He wrote: “Thank you, Mr. Federal President, for your personal support of Ukraine and your hospitality”. He also thanked the German people for their “fantastic solidarity”. In German he added: “Thank you Germany!”
Steinmeier had previously greeted Selenskyj with a smile at Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the German head of state. The President of Ukraine appeared in a black sweater and olive-green pants – as in many public appearances. He arrived in a convoy of cars. It had previously been considered that Zelenskyy could be flown to the meeting by helicopter for security reasons.
After Zelenskyj’s entry in the guest book, Steinmeier withdrew to talk with his Ukrainian guest. There should be four consultants on both sides, it said.
Initially not an easy relationship between Steinmeier and Selensky
The relationship between Steinmeier and Selenskyj was not easy at first – a visit by the German head of state to Ukraine had only worked out for the third time at the end of October. Shortly before, a visit had to be postponed at short notice for safety reasons. In April 2022, Steinmeier had to cancel a joint trip with the presidents of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia at the last minute. At the time, Kiev had signaled to Steinmeier that he was not welcome.
Former SPD Foreign Minister Steinmeier was criticized for his pro-Russian policies in Ukraine. He had ignored Eastern European warnings about Germany’s dependence on Russian energy supplies. The unloading was seen as an affront in Berlin. The situation only relaxed again after a telephone conversation between the presidents in early May 2022.
Reception by Scholz with military honors
Following the meeting with Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) wanted to receive Selenskyj with military honors in the Chancellery. On Sunday afternoon, Selenskyj and the Ukrainian people are to be honored in Aachen with the Charlemagne Prize for services to European unity. Scholz will hold the laudatory speech. Other speakers will be EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The chancellor and Zelenskyy were expected to fly together from Berlin to Aachen.
Selenskyj receives the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen
In the justification for the award ceremony, Zelenskyj’s role in repelling the Russian war of aggression was emphasized: he was not only the president of his people and the supreme commander of the Ukrainian army. He is “also the motivator, communicator, the motor and the link between Ukraine and the large phalanx of supporters”.
Last year, the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya and two fellow campaigners received the Charlemagne Prize, in 2021 the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis are also laureates.
Zelenskyi arrived early Sunday morning from Rome for his first visit to Germany since the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine. An Airbus A319 from the Air Force’s flight readiness department picked up Selenskyj in Rome on Saturday evening, as the Air Force announced on Twitter. Two Eurofighters took off from the Lechfeld air base in Bavaria and “escorted him safely to Berlin,” it said. The Air Force released two photos – one from the plane’s window looking at one of the accompanying fighter jets, the other looking at the Airbus.
“Already in Berlin,” Zelenskyj tweeted shortly after his arrival. “Weapons. Strong package. Air defence, reconstruction. EU. Nato. Security,” he added – keywords for possible topics of discussion in Berlin. Zelenskyj’s exact program was initially kept secret for security reasons.
Security measures in Berlin are reminiscent of visits by US Presidents
Because of Zelenskyj’s visit, the security measures in Berlin had been increased – they were reminiscent of those that also apply to a visit by a US president. The police implemented significantly increased security measures for parts of the center of the capital on Sunday morning. Due to a so-called general decree, extensive security measures and traffic closures apply until 6 p.m. The areas around the government district in Mitte were particularly affected. It was also no longer possible to drive on the Spree at the height of the Federal Chancellery. Snipers were positioned on the roof of the Chancellery.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.