Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has arrived in Ukraine as the highest-ranking German government official to visit the country since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.
Her first stop was in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, where Russian forces are accused of having committed atrocities that Western countries say were tantamount to war crimes.
Moscow, which has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in its invasion of Ukraine, called allegations that its forces executed civilians in Bucha while they occupied the town a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the army.
Baerbock’s visit came as Kyiv and Berlin sought to mend ties after wrangling over issues such as Berlin’s reluctance to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine and its earlier support for dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Touring the town with Ukraine’s general prosecutor, Baerbock said those responsible for the killings in Bucha should face justice.
“That is what we owe to the victims,” she said. “And these victims, you can feel that here very intensely, these victims could have been us.”
Germany has become among the largest supplies of arms to Ukraine and has thrown its weight behind tough sanctions on Russia, including a proposed embargo on buying Russian oil.
But ties have been prickly. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been reluctant to visit Ukraine since Kyiv was unwilling to receive German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Steinmeier, Scholz’s Social Democrat ally, is unpopular in Kyiv because he is associated there with an earlier German policy of pursuing close trade and other ties with Putin’s Russia.
Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine’s outspoken ambassador in Berlin, called Scholz’s reasons those of an “offended liver sausage”, implying he was behaving like a petulant child.
Scholz is now planning a trip after he and Steinmeier were invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra also travelled to Kyiv with Baerbock on Tuesday, the Dutch Foreign ministry said.