19 January, 12:48 AM
Ukrainian embassy in Berlin conducting ‘wartime diplomacy,’ says ambassador
Eight years of Russia waging war on Ukraine present our diplomatic corps with unprecedented challenges,” Melnyk said.
“We are, essentially, forced to conduct wartime diplomacy, particularly in Germany, since it plays a key role in halting Russian aggression.”
The ambassador said it was vital to ensure that German public opinion favors Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, since that would then put pressure on Berlin to take a more active role in efforts to put a stop to Moscow’s expansionist ambitions.
Melnyk said Ukraine’s prospective EU and NATO membership, weapon sales, the Normandy Format (Ukraine-Russia-France-Germany) talks, Nord Stream-2 natural gas pipeline, and international recognition of the Holodomor genocide were priorities for Ukrainian diplomatic efforts in Berlin.
Reflecting on his over 700 engagements with German media, Melnyk said that “all this media activity of ours is often irritating to Berlin’s ruling elites, since we occasionally poke at some sore spots.”
He explained the need for such pushy diplomacy by pointing out the effectiveness with which a loud, provocative media buzz forces the German government to react and provide clear answers to questions that are important to Kyiv, such as sales of defensive armaments to Ukraine.
“On more than one occasion during my tenure in Berlin, I’ve been told, delicately or otherwise, to tone down our media presence,” said the ambassador.
“Sometimes (they) would even complain directly to (my superiors in) Kyiv.”
Despite that, Melnyk says he has no intention of scaling down the embassy’s media engagement. And besides the more visible, flashy work, the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin conducts plenty more “traditional,” quiet “backroom diplomacy,” according to the diplomat.
Meanwhile, pronouncements by officials in Kyiv also irk the Germans on occasion: UK newspaper the Financial Times on Jan. 12 quoted Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on the subject of Germany blocking sales of NATO weapons to Ukraine, saying “They (the Germans) are still going through with the Nord Stream-2 natural gas pipeline, while simultaneously blocking us from purchasing defensive weapons – that is hardly fair.”
According to German newspaper Bild, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was opposed to NATO selling arms to Ukraine, and asked the Dutch to support German position.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated back in June 2021 that Ukraine seeks to purchase German defensive military equipment, such as patrol boats, rifles, field radios and armored personnel carriers.
In response, Heiko Maas, who was German foreign minister at the time, said that the conflict in eastern Ukraine “could only be resolved by political means,” and that “arms sales would do no good.”
Former German government’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said that Germany remains bound by its pledge to not supply conflict zones with weapons. However, despite this pledge Germany has in recent years sold weapons to countries involved in conflicts with Yemen and Libya.
The current Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border was first widely reported in early December 2021, with several media outlets speculating that Russia might invade Ukraine with a force of 175,000 troops in early 2022.
The Kremlin denies gearing up for invasion, and has instead accused Ukraine of planning false flag operations, as well as of drawing up plans to use force to restore Kyiv’s control over territories lost since 2014.
The situation on Ukraine's eastern border is a matter of deep concern for both U.S. and EU officials. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the White House is looking at a range of options to dissuade Russia from a potential attack on Ukraine.