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Energy was inevitably discussed at another summit that took place in Berlin. Chancellor of Germany Merkel met with President of Ukraine Zelensky in person for the first time. He arrived in Germany to ask her to strengthen the anti-Russian sanctions and abandon the Nord Stream 2 project. However, he had to face the unwavering integrity of Merkel, who was adamant, despite suddenly feeling sick during the meeting.
Mikhail Antonov from Berlin on Zelensky's impressions of Europe and Europe's impressions of Zelensky.
The band and honor guard in the courtyard of the chancellor's office attract tourists. None of them seem to have come here to see the president of Ukraine. When Poroshenko was in charge, migrant workers used to come here holding "thank you for the visa-free regime" banners. There's nothing to thank this one for. Ukraine is plunging into the abyss of more elections, parliamentary this time. Right now, the country is run by the oligarch Poroshenko's officials and the Maidan Rada. That's why appearance plays a big role for Zelensky: closed streets, red carpets, and honor motorcycle escorts. It shows that an actual president is coming through.
To be a president or to look like one? In terms of real power, the latter describes Zelensky better so far. Merkel's also not exactly sure about him. Their first meeting. They had a couple of phone conversations before.
“Politicians like Zelensky are a nasty challenge for Merkel. The chancellor's always believed that politics requires experience and a serious approach. Naturally, she speaks about her herself as well. Now, Merkel's dealing with her polar opposite.”
It's far hotter than 85°F in Berlin. After standing in the sun with her guest, the chancellor almost had a heat stroke. She was shaking and almost lost her balance a couple of times. But she endured it and even found the strength to guide her novice counterpart, walking along the honor guard formation. She got better after drinking three glasses of water, said the chancellor at the press conference, which revealed that the relations between Berlin and Kiev can still be heated at times; for example, when talking about the anti-Russian sanctions. For a long time, Merkel's been dealing with a growing sense of pointlessness among the German politicians. The prime ministers of Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg recently openly said that it's time to lift the sanctions. Ukraine's Ambassador to Germany Melnik accused them of betraying the people of Ukraine.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany: "We weren't talking about strengthening the sanctions, we were talking about prolonging them. That's something the EU can continue doing."
Vladimir Zelensky, President of Ukraine: “For all of us and for Russia first of all, sanctions are tools. As we all know, if our tool isn't the strongest and most efficient one, we need more tools like it. I encourage those who argue for lifting the sanctions to visit Donbass and see how much grief this war brought to the people of Ukraine." Look at Crimea, it used to be a tourist resort and a natural gem. Now, it's an actual military camp."
Great idea, let's take a look at Crimea. Every German politician, official, or ordinary citizen can follow President Zelensky's advice without risking anything and personally travel to Crimea to look around. There's no other way to do that. The new airports, roads, and power plants, and Crimea's clean beaches can't be seen from Kiev. Zelensky hasn't been here for five years.
He flew to Berlin from Paris, where he discussed the top-level revival of the Normandy format with Macron. There, he also had an interview with Bild while sitting on some stairs. It's a new working format for the politician who got stuck between the floors and elections.
- When you meet Putin for the first time, what will you tell him?
- Let's start from the point that Donbass and Crimea are Ukrainian.
The conversation's basically over at this point. Russia believes that Crimea is a closed matter. It's not even a discussion subject for the Normandy format that Zelensky wants to reboot. The Normandy format is in charge of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. But this also doesn't make sense. In Paris, Zelensky corrected Macron, saying that Kiev won't engage in direct negotiations with Donetsk and Lugansk, which stands in direct contradiction with the Minsk action plan. However, Merkel is familiar with the chaos of the Ukrainian political consciousness.
Vladimir Zelensky: “Nothing new here. It's not a secret that our positions on the Nord Stream 2 project are diametrically opposed. At the same time, we're thankful for Germany's readiness to engage in dialogue on this complex matter.”
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany: "I kept telling the Russian president that gas transit through Ukraine is a very important matter to me. Nord Stream 2 and the gas transit matter are closely connected.”
Shortly before Zelensky's visit, the German press couldn't hide its curiosity regarding the new leader of Ukraine. Even if Merkel had some concerns regarding that they must evaporate now. The suit fits perfectly, this one's definitely a big city actor. Other than that, he's basically another Poroshenko. It's all familiar.
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