German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier vowed further support to Ukraine, especially in the area of air defense, during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, his first since Russia invaded the country on February 24.
Steinmeier had originally planned to visit Ukraine in April but Kyiv refused to welcome him then amid disquiet over his past support for a Western rapprochement with Russia. Kyiv and Berlin later patched up their disagreement.
"My message to the Ukrainians is: 'Not only do we stand by your side, but we will continue to support Ukraine economically, politically and also militarily," Steinmeier told reporters on his arrival by train in Kyiv.
"My message to the Ukrainians is: 'Not only do we stand by your side, but we will continue to support Ukraine economically, politically and also militarily."Frank-Walter Steinmeier
"What matters now is that we help to protect the Ukrainians from air attacks as much as possible," he added, noting that Germany had become one of the largest suppliers of air defense equipment to Ukraine in recent months.
The German head of state, whose role is largely ceremonial, condemned what he called Russia's "brutal war of aggression" against Ukraine and said he was looking forward to meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit.
Focus on infrastructure
Besides military support, Steinmeier said, his trip would focus on helping to repair destroyed infrastructure, such as power grids, water pipes and heating systems, as quickly as possible before winter arrives.
Steinmeier, a Social Democrat and former foreign minister, has expressed regret for his past support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a project designed to double the flow of Russian gas to Germany but which was canceled after the Russian invasion.
He hails from a wing of the Social Democratic Party that had long argued for closer economic ties to Russia as a way of anchoring it within a Western-oriented global system.
Steinmeier's arrival in Kyiv coincided with a conference in Berlin on what its hosts say must be a 'Marshall Plan' to rebuild Ukraine, comparing the challenge to the U.S. funding of Europe's reconstruction after World War Two.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who is attending the conference, said on Monday the estimated cost of rebuilding his country stood so far at nearly $750 billion.