Germany berated for inaction by Zelenskiy in Bundestag address

Ukrainian president calls on country to match words with more decisive deeds

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy read German politicians the riot act on Thursday, accusing them of putting their profits before his people.

In a strident video address to the Bundestag in Berlin, the Ukrainian leader accused his audience of hypocrisy for their post-1945 "no more wars" mantra while allowing Russia to prepare a war against his country

"We are separated by a wall, not a Berlin Wall but a wall is stretching through Europe between freedom and unfreedom," he said.

The president said Germany had consistently prioritised its economic interests in the region, such as the Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline, over warnings from Kyiv.

“We warned that Nord Stream was preparation for war,” he said. “The answer, we noted, was: ‘It’s just business.’ Business, business business – that was the mortar for the new wall.”

Now German politicians, he said, were afraid of looking behind this metaphorical wall for fear of what they might see: cities razed to the ground and civilians, without drinking water and power, the target of 24-hour indiscriminate Russian bombings.

He recalled how a year ago German president Frank Walter Steinmeier visited Kyiv on the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Jar valley massacre, when Nazis massacred 33,000 Jewish residents of the Ukrainian capital. On Thursday he said the site had been hit by Russian missiles, killing a family.

“We now see that the words ‘no more war’, repeated for 80 years, really mean nothing,” he said.

Mr Zelenskiy expressed his thanks to all in Germany who are supporting Ukraine and recalled former US president Ronald Reagan's 1987 demand in West Berlin that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down" the Berlin Wall.

Addressing chancellor Olaf Scholz, Mr Zelenskiy urged him to "destroy" the metaphorical wall caused by war: "Give Germany the leadership role it has earned so that your descendants will be proud of you."

Since Russian invaded Ukraine last month, Germany has suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and has begun delivering arms to Ukraine, shattering a decades-old taboo.

In addition Mr Scholz has promised to bring Germany defence spending up to its Nato obligations.

‘Impressive’

The chancellor did not respond to the Ukrainian president’s 15-minute address in the Bundestag. Instead parliamentary vice-president Katrin Göring-Eckardt thanked Mr Zelenskiy, the video screen went blank and MPs moved on to discuss Germany’s proposed Covid-19 vaccine mandate.

Later Mr Scholz described the president’s words as “impressive” and said “Germany is making its contribution and will do that in the future”.

Speaking alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, he said the alliance would "not intervene militarily in this war". Mr Stoltenberg said Germany was "leading the way" by boostings its defence spending.

“Nato has a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating further,” he said. “That would be even more dangerous and cause more suffering, deaths and destruction.”

During decades of its “transformation through trade” policy towards Moscow, Germany became one of Russia’s most significant foreign investors.

Before the war there were more than 3,600 German-run companies in the country, employing nearly 280,000 people with direct investment amounting to about €25 billion.

Now most big German companies, from Daimler and Volkswagen to Adidas and building materials giant Knauf, have pulled out.

Like other EU members, Germany is working to reduce its reliance on Russian energy but last week Mr Scholz said he had made a “conscious decision” to continue buying Russian gas and oil, given Germany’s particular dependency.

A quarter of German energy comes from natural gas, of which 55 per cent is delivered by Russia.