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Zelensky invites Germany’s Scholz for WWII victory holiday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday he had invited Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Kyiv for the May 9 holiday marking the end of World War II, after the German leader declined to commit to a visit.

Scholz’s government has been accused of being slow to help arm Ukraine and he and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier long backed closer energy ties with Russia. Ukraine declined a proposed visit by Steinmeier last month.

Zelensky said of Scholz during a video interview with Chatham House think-tank in London: “He’s invited to come to Ukraine, he can make this very powerful political step to come here on 9th May to Kyiv.”

The holiday is marked by the former Soviet countries as the date of Soviet victory over the Nazis.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin will hold a military parade on Red Square in Moscow and is expected to make announcements on the future course of the war.

Zelensky said in comments translated into English from Ukrainian that he had extended the invitation to Scholz while speaking to Steinmeier on Thursday.

A source from the German president’s office earlier told AFP that such a conversation took place.

Asked if he was taking up Zelensky’s invitation, Scholz said at a press conference on Thursday that following discussions with Steinmeier, “the result of the talks was that the foreign minister will soon be in Ukraine”.

Zelensky on Friday referred to tensions between Ukraine and Germany, saying that “sometimes in history, we have to make certain steps for unity even if there is some kind of coldness in specific relations”.

This came as a diplomatic spat had been rumbling between the two countries since Steinmeier admitted last month he had offered to visit but was “not wanted in Kyiv”.

Scholz had voiced irritation over the snub, and as recently as this week said it stood “in the way” of him visiting Kyiv.

Steinmeier admitted in April that he had made a “mistake” in pushing for Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline built to double Russian gas imports to Germany.

Zelensky slammed the project Friday, saying that “Nord Stream 2 or 3 or even North Stream 100, they are not worth anybody’s health and life”.

He accused the EU of “hypocrisy” from imposing sanctions on Russia while some members drag their feet on committing to stop buying its energy resources.

Germany is highly dependent on Russian gas.

“No exceptions for some jurisdictions, it should all be done in unity,” Zelensky said.

He warned Germany that if Ukraine falls, Russia’s “threats may come true”, citing rhetoric about Russian troops going to Berlin, as the Red Army did during World War II.