Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow children who have been kidnapped from Ukraine to return home.
Her return to Ukraine "is the first step towards peace. And immediately," demanded the Green politician on Monday after a conversation with her Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba in the Ukrainian capital. However, Baerbock disappointed Kuleba's hopes of a signal for a quick decision by the federal government on a delivery of long-range Taurus cruise missiles requested by Kiev.
Ukrainian children were abducted in an inhumane way and subjected to brainwashing - "with the aim of turning them against their own homeland, Ukraine," criticized Baerbock. Their fates "show once again: Putin stops at nothing. He has no moral compass" and breaks "the rules of the international community and the rules of human interaction every day," said Baerbock.
Baerbock appeal: Look at the children
Addressing those who are neutral about Russia's war of aggression, she said: "That's why I appeal to those who argue to clearly name the aggressor and his crimes: Look at these children." The topic is also expected to play a larger role on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York. Baerbock also wants to draw attention to the fate of the abducted children there.
According to Kiev, Moscow has brought a total of around 20,000 Ukrainian children from areas close to the front to Crimea and Russia. Several hundred have now been able to return to government-controlled areas. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children's representative Maria Lwowa-Belowa because of the abduction.
Baerbock for the fourth time since the outbreak of war in Ukraine
In the afternoon, Baerbock also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and later with Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal. After the conversation with the Foreign Minister, Zelenskyj said with a view to the reconstruction conference for his country planned in Berlin next year: "It is important to ensure maximum concrete practical results from this conference." He also thanked Germany for its significant support to Ukraine, particularly military and financial.
Informed circles reported that it was a good, very friendly conversation, during which the President thanked for the continued German support, especially in the area of air defense. Other topics included Ukraine's path to EU accession, the reconstruction conference and the special tribunal.
Baerbock visited Ukraine for the fourth time since the Russian war of aggression began in February 2022. During her appearance with Kuleba, she said there could be no getting used to the Russian atrocities. That's why Germany will stand by Ukraine for as long as it is necessary. “We in Europe know: You are also defending our European freedom here. We are “forever grateful” to the Ukrainians for this, emphasized the Federal Foreign Minister.
Taurus cruise missile - Kuleba disillusioned
However, Baerbock did not hold out hope for a quick decision given Ukraine's long-standing desire to receive German Taurus cruise missiles. “We are more than aware of the situation,” she said. "At the same time, it's not enough to just promise things." As before the delivery of the Iris-T air defense system and the other German weapons deliveries, "all questions must first be clarified".
Ukraine wants to use cruise missiles to hit targets behind the large Russian minefields. Foreign Minister Kuleba reacted disillusioned. Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were killed because of the federal government's hesitation, he said. "There is not a single objective argument against it."
If Berlin has questions about the operation, Kiev is ready to answer them, said the Foreign Minister. Germany would supply the weapons anyway. This is only a matter of time. He couldn't understand why time was being wasted here. "Let us do it. The sooner it happens, the higher our esteem will be."
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has so far expressed reservations about the Taurus demand. The reason is fears that the modern weapons could also be fired by Ukraine at targets on Russian territory and that Russia could retaliate.
Support in the EU accession process, but hurdles remain
Baerbock promised Ukraine continued support on its way to the European Union. As soon as she arrived, however, she insisted on further reform efforts, for example in the fight against corruption. Ukraine has had EU candidate status since June 2022.
Baerbock said that Kiev's reform record was impressive when it came to judicial reform and media legislation. But “there is still a way to go in implementing the anti-oligarch law and the fight against corruption.” The EU itself must also “work quickly to ensure that we are properly positioned for more chairs at the table”. The minister also met representatives of various organizations fighting corruption in the country at the National Anti-Corruption Office of Ukraine.
Before winter: work on energy supply
During a visit to a substation about 50 kilometers outside the center of Kiev, Baerbock was described the efforts to secure the energy supply before the approaching winter. Ukraine's infrastructure facilities are repeatedly attacked by Russia. Ukraine's energy supply is considered fragile.
According to Ukrainian information, the plant was hit several times by Russian missiles and kamikaze drones supplied from Iran. There was a serious attack with several drones around New Year's Eve. In order to intercept low-flying kamikaze drones, high nets have now been set up around the plant.