UPDATED: Ukraine official denies Zelenskiy rejected visit offer from Germany’s Steinmeier

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April 13 (Reuters) – An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Serhiy Leshchenko, denied in an interview with CNN that Zelenskiy had rejected a visit offer from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as reported by the Bild newspaper.

Steinmeier said on Tuesday that he had planned to visit Kyiv with his Polish counterpart and the presidents of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia “to send a strong signal of European solidarity with Ukraine … (but) that was not wanted in Kyiv”. Read full story

Bild reported that Zelenskiy had rejected Steinmeier’s plans to visit due to his close relations with Russia in recent years and his years of support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a project designed to double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany but which has since been cancelled.

Polish President Andrzej Duda and the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are on their way to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodimir Zelensky, an adviser to the Polish leader said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the chairmen of three parliamentarian committees said after a visit to Ukraine The European Union should impose an embargo on Russian oil as soon as possibl,.

The EU is drafting proposals for an oil embargo on Russia although there was no agreement to ban Russian crude. EU diplomats said Berlin, which is heavily reliant on Russian oil, is not actively supporting an immediate embargo. 

Germany’s government expects to be able to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year.

German Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael Roth on Tuesday said cutting Russian oil would be a very important signal because it would affect Russia’s main source of income.

A quick EU decision could be combined with a transition phase like the import ban on Russian coal, which will come into effect from mid-August after EU ambassadors agreed on it last week, Roth said.

Roth’s comments come after visiting western Ukraine on Tuesday with two parliamentarian committees heads from the ruling coalition parties.

“It can be done within a few weeks because there are other suppliers,” said Anton Hofreiter, the head of the Bundestag’s Europe’s Committee, adding that phase-out period to implement a ban on Russian coal was too long.

Photo: Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania

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