Chancellor Angela Merkel was given a warm reception at the airport in Kyiv. Mayor Vitali Klitschko welcomed the German leader in true Ukrainian tradition with gifts of bread and salt. This was Angela Merkel's first bilateral visit to Ukraine since August 2014 and her inaugural visit since her re-election as Chancellor in March 2018.
Sanctions still needed, says Chancellor
On her arrival, Angela Merkel was welcomed with military honours by President Petro Poroshenko. The talks that followed focused on bilateral relations between Germany and Ukraine. Another important issue discussed was the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine which has now persisted for more than four years.
The armed conflict in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine is still the greatest challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War. Fighting between the central government in Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists have been ongoing since 2014, with fluctuating intensity.
As in the past, the Chancellor stressed the importance of fully implementing the Minsk agreements to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine. For as long as progress "can be measured in millimetres" the EU's sanctions on Russia must remain in place, she said. "The sanctions are linked to a certain state, and if progress is made we can talk about relaxing the sanctions," stressed Angela Merkel at a joint press conference with President Poroshenko. In view of the setbacks and lack of progress "Germany will be advocating an extension of sanctions in December, as things stand at the moment".
On 11/12 February 2015 a 13-point package of measures was agreed in Minsk. The Minsk agreements include a ceasefire, the withdrawal of troops and political reforms. At a top-level meeting in Berlin on 19 October 2016, participants adopted a concrete roadmap to achieve these. The goal is is to restore the control of the Ukrainian government over the separatist-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine. Ceasefire violations, however, continue unabated.
Conflict in the Donbass remains a key problem
In this context, the Chancellor pointed to the "massive challenge posed by 1.6 million internally displaced Ukrainians" as a result of the Russian attack on the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. It is thus "very good that we can once again provide funding for vocational training and for housing," stressed Angela Merkel.
With the French President and the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Chancellor Angela Merkel has advocated a cessation of hostilities. Normandy Group - or N4 - negotiations have taken place at various levels since the first meeting on 6 June 2014 in Normandy, which gave the group its name. The aim is to achieve the practical implementation of the package of measures agreed in 2015 in Minsk, first and foremost a ceasefire, the withdrawal of troops and political reforms. At the most recent top-level meeting held on 19 October 2016 in Berlin, participants adopted a roadmap.
Dialogue and cooperation among all stakeholders remains indispensable in order to move closer to a political solution to the conflict. Against this background, the Permanent Council of the Organization for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) decided to deploy a Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine back in March 2014. As well as federal police officers, Germany has currently seconded 28 civilian observers from the Federal Foreign Office to the OSCE mission. They are deployed via the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF).
Assistance on reforms and research
Another item on the Chancellor's agenda in Kyiv was a visit to the "Monument of Heavenly Hundreds" which honours those who lost their lives during the "Revolution of Dignity" at Maidan Square in winter 2013/2014.
Angela Merkel's subsequent meeting with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman looked at bilateral, economic and international issues. The Chancellor stressed how close and cordial relations are between the two countries. Germany is working to ensure that "Ukraine's territorial integrity is assured, but also that economic development is driven forward".
The German side, she said, is aware that this is "a very painful process that is demanding a great many reforms of Ukraine", from efforts to stamp out corruption to promoting local self-government. In future former premier of the German federal state of Saxony, Georg Milbradt, will be providing assistance here. He is an expert in the field of decentralisation.
The German government's "action plan for Ukraine" already embraced humanitarian assistance for landmine clearance as well as treating soldiers injured in the fighting in Bundeswehr hospitals. These have been joined by a new agreement to set up offices of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) in Ukraine.
Meetings with the chairs of the political groups represented in the Ukrainian parliament and a discussion with students rounded off the Chancellor's programme. In the late evening she flew back to Berlin.