1 of 3 | German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Kyiv, Ukraine on October 25, 2022. Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked his residents to look "through the eyes of Ukrainians" during his visit to Kyiv on Tuesday morning during a surprise visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Steinmeier met with Zelensky and also examined war damage in the Chernihiv region. He had planned to visit Kyiv in April but was disinvited after Ukrainian officials accused past German leaders Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel of being soft on Russia under President Vladimir Putin.
"My message to the people of Ukraine is: You can count on Germany! We will continue to support Ukraine: militarily, politically, financially and in humanitarian regards," Steinmeier said on social media through his spokesperson.
"And at the same time, my message to all Germans at home is: Let's never forget what this war means for the people here. Despite all the hardships that the war also brings for us in Germany -- let's look through the eyes of the Ukrainians for a moment."
Steinmeier said he will lead the network of cities helping Ukraine, especially in the upcoming winter months as the Russian military continues to target power infrastructure in the country.
"Many German partner cities are providing great help in this regard," Steinmeier said. "Together with the President [Zelensky], I will take over the patronage of [German-Ukrainian] city partnership network. The more partnerships there are, the better it will be to get through the winter."
Among the places Steinmeier visited Tuesday was the Chernihiv region, where he assumed the symbolic patronage of its reconstruction efforts in an effort to encourage local governments and civil society leaders to join the partnership network, his office said in a statement.
"As Russia has brought war back to our continent, municipal partnerships have opened a new chapter of strength," his office said, highlighting efforts already underway by German cities and towns to take Ukrainians seeking refuge from the war.
The office of Zelensky said Steinmeier's patronage over the restoration of Chernihiv was a first in the history of their bilateral relations.
During their meeting, Zelensky thanked Steinmeier for Germany's cooperation in security, economy, social development, energy and at the international level at the European Union and United Nations.
He described Germany's contributions to Ukraine as "significant" while specifically thanking him for Germany's provision of IRIS-T air defense systems, which has aided Kyiv in protecting its skies from Russian assaults.
"It's really a priority today, we all feel it," he said, referring to Russia's ongoing attacks on civilian centers.
Zelensky said he informed Steinmeier of Ukraine's military needs, and that he hopes "we can get some more relevant systems in the near future."
Steinmeier was slated to visit Kyiv last Thursday, but his trip was postponed after Russia attacked Kyiv with missiles and drones in the days before.