German Foreign Minister visits Bucha on surprise Ukraine visit

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday visited Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv where Russian troops have been accused of killing civilians.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talks to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Wenediktowa during her visit to Bucha, near Kyiv in Ukraine on May 10th.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talks to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Wenediktowa during her visit to Bucha, near Kyiv in Ukraine on May 10th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Stein

Baerbock, who was meeting with local residents during the unannounced trip, is the latest in a string of foreign diplomats and leaders to visit Bucha, one of several towns and villages around Kyiv where Moscow’s army has been accused of carrying out war crimes.

The German minister said Bucha was a place where “the worst crimes imaginable have happened”, promising to “hold accountable” those responsible.

“We owe it to the victims to not only commemorate here, but to also hold the perpetrators accountable. This is what we are going to do as the
international community, that’s the promise that we can and must give here in Bucha,” she said.

“No one can take away the pain… but we can ensure justice,” she said, accompanied on her visit by Ukraine’s attorney general who is investigating the killings.

Baerbock is the first German cabinet member to visit Ukraine since the war began on February 24th.

A diplomatic row had been rumbling between Germany and Ukraine after German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted last month he had offered to go to Ukraine with other EU leaders, but this was “not wanted in Kyiv”.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Steinmeier were last week invited to visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

READ ALSO: Zelensky invites Scholz and Steinmeier to visit Ukraine 

Foreign Minister Baerbock was accompanied by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Wenediktova during her visit on Tuesday. Baerbock was scheduled to meet with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in the afternoon.

She was also set to reopen the German embassy in Kyiv, which has been closed since mid-February. The last posted staff of the embassy left for Poland on February 25th.

Baerbock is seen below lighting a candle in memory of Ukrainian victims. 

Germany is one of the last western countries to announce the reopening of its embassy in Kyiv. On Sunday, the USA and Canada said its embassy staff had returned. Staff from the EU, France, Italy, Great Britain, Austria and other states also reopened their bases in Kyiv. From the group of G7 countries, only Japan has not yet announced the reopening of its embassy.

On Sunday, Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (Social Democrats) visited Kyiv as the second highest representative of the state after the German President. Meanwhile, the CDU leader Friedrich Merz went to Kyiv last Tuesday.

No date has been revealed for when Chancellor Scholz will go to the war-torn country. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz deflects criticism over Ukraine war

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Germany’s defence minister visits Ukraine: ministry

Germany's Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Saturday, her first since Russia's invasion in February, as Kyiv urges Berlin to send it battle tanks.

Germany's defence minister visits Ukraine: ministry

Lambrecht visited the southern port city of Odessa, the German defence ministry said in a statement, without saying how long the trip had lasted. It added on Twitter that she had met her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

So far, no NATO country has supplied Western battle tanks to Kyiv.

Ukraine has repeatedly sought Leopard battle tanks from Germany to aid in its counter-attack against Russia, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has refused.

Scholz has said he doesn’t want to go it alone on arms supplies and will only take decisions in consultation with his Western allies.

Lambrecht reiterated this stance in Odessa: “We will always confer with our partners about what Ukraine needs,” she said.

“From my impressions today, air defence and artillery are currently at the forefront,” she told public broadcaster ARD.

She added that she had seen how the “populations were tormented by drones”.

Lambrecht’s visit came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

These annexations have been unanimously condemned by Ukraine’s allies.

“Germany will never recognise the results of the sham referendums” in the four regions, Scholz told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone on Wednesday, according to the chancellor’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Scholz travelled to Ukraine in June, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has visited Kyiv twice.