German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Ukraine on Tuesday (October 25) for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. During the visit, he promised more support to Kiev, especially in the area of air defense.
Steinmeier had originally planned to visit Ukraine in April but Kyiv refused to welcome him amid tensions over his past support for Western ties with Russia. Kyiv and Berlin later settled their differences.
“My message to the Ukrainians is that we not only stand by you, we will continue to support Ukraine economically, politically and militarily,” Steinmeier told reporters after arriving in Kiev by train.
He added that the most important thing at the moment is to help protect Ukrainians from airstrikes as much as possible.
He also noted that Germany has become one of the suppliers of air defense equipment to Ukraine in recent months.
The German head of state has called Russia’s aggression against Ukraine a ‘brutal war’. Condemning it as well, he said he was looking forward to meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi during his visit.
Besides pledging military support, Steinmeier said his visit would help repair damaged infrastructure such as electricity grids, water pipes and heating systems as quickly as possible before winter arrives.
Steinmeier, a Social Democrat and former foreign minister, regretted his past support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The project was designed to double the flow of Russian gas to Germany but was canceled after the Russian invasion.
He comes from a wing of the Social Democratic Party that has long argued for closer economic ties with Russia as a way to anchor it in the Western-oriented global order.
Steinmeier’s arrival in Kiev will coincide with a conference in Berlin calling for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to rebuild Ukraine, which its organizers compared to the challenge of US funding rebuilding Europe after World War II.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal, who attended the conference, said Monday that the estimated cost of his country’s reconstruction so far is about $750 billion.