Ukraine shows unity as West sees no sign of Russian pullback
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Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, has called for the German government to reach “concrete results” in its diplomatic talks with Russia and claimed the chancellor “must not make any concessions” when it comes to Kiev’s possibility to one day join NATO.
He said: “The Ukrainians expect that after Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s inaugural visit to Moscow, this German turbo diplomacy will not only gain momentum but above all will result in concrete results.”
Speaking to the nation’s Funke media group, he stressed it is “not just about averting a new Russian war in the middle of Europe”.
Mr Melnky warned: “The traffic light government must not make any concessions to Mr Putin to free choice of alliance, on the one hand, and to postpone Ukraine’s NATO membership until the day of the gods, on the other.
“That would be a geopolitical catastrophe.”
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Mr Scholz’s meeting with Mr Putin on Tuesday, after heavy criticism for Berlin’s soft stance on the row, was closely watched by those following Western leaders’ efforts to defuse tensions in Ukraine.
The chancellor, though more assertive than expected, said Kiev’s potential NATO membership was “not on the agenda”, and even suggested the matter would not be decided during his and Mr Putin’s time in office.
With a grin towards his Russian counterpart, who has led Russia as president or prime minister for more than two decades, he said: “I don’t quite know how long the president plans to stay in office.
“I have a feeling this could be a long time, but not forever.”
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After a noteworthy arrival in Moscow in which Mr Scholz followed French President Emmanuel Macron in refusing to take a PCR provided by the Kremlin due to security fears, the chancellor said: “The most important thing is that we manage relations between countries through good discussions with each other.”
After their meeting, he emphasised “it is important to go the road of diplomacy so as to avoid war in Europe”, adding: “Dialogue cannot end in a cul de sac.”
Mr Putin, highlighting that Germany is “one of Russia’s most important partners”, added: “We are ready to work further together. We are ready to go down the negotiations track.”
Amid announcements by the Kremlin this week that Russian forces are being returned to bases following drills, the West and Kiev continue to condemn the build-up at Ukraine’s borders, saying they did not see proof of a withdrawal.
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In response, Moscow on Wednesday cautioned forces “can’t just take to the air and all fly away”, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters the Kremlin “has a schedule” and the pull-out would “take some time”.
Separately, the Ukrainian ambassador has also called on the German government to be more involved in the Normandy Format negotiations.
Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia — who first convened in 2014 in an effort to resolve the war in Donbas — last met for a summit in Paris in 2019.
In the hope the talks can also find a way out of the current standoff, Mr Melnyk said: “We expect Chancellor Scholz to convene a new Normandy summit at the highest level in Berlin in the next few weeks in order to overcome an extremely dangerous speechlessness and radio silence between President Zelensky and President Putin, who has not wanted to pick up the phone for two years.”
While getting the Russian and Ukrainian leaders together was seen as a success back when the group was formed, further meetings did not make much headway.
The prospect of Moscow and Kiev in the same room today seems so far unlikely, as the relationship between the two appears to depend on the US and NATO more than on themselves.
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