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Shock jock diplomacy: Ukraine’s gadfly ambassador bids farewell to Berlin


Andrii Melnyk, Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Berlin, typically went too far. Just like the time he instructed Chancellor Olaf Scholz to “cease being such a prima donna”. Or when he instructed a leftwing politician to “shut your gob”.

However in Melnyk’s view the tip at all times justified the means. “I believe I’ve shaken folks awake,” he instructed the Monetary Instances. “And I’m glad I’ve achieved that, although I typically needed to do it in a considerably undiplomatic approach.”

Ask German officers what they consider Melnyk, who has been recalled to Kyiv after serving seven years as ambassador, and the most typical response is “Nervensäge” — or “nerve-saw” — German for a royal ache within the neck.

It’s a reference to his close to fixed sniping on the German authorities over its Ukraine insurance policies — a marketing campaign he led with an entire disregard for diplomatic niceties. Melnyk’s interventions — on Twitter, in talk-shows and thru numerous radio and print interviews — went off like firecrackers in a crowded room, inflicting panic, consternation and, often, awe.

He defends his shock-jock fashion. “You need to stir folks from their candy slumber, out of their lethargy — the place they only say: ‘Every part’s advantageous and dandy, so what does this man need from us? Why is he upsetting us?’” he mentioned.

An knowledgeable in worldwide and human-rights legislation and fluent German speaker who first joined Ukraine’s diplomatic service in 1997, Melnyk was unknown to the broader public till Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Then, immediately, he was in all places.

In a fusillade of interventions on TV and social media, he pleaded with Germany’s leaders to assist his embattled nation, needled them over their hesitancy in supplying heavy weapons, and mercilessly berated them for his or her previous naivete in trusting Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Within the course of he grew to become, within the phrases of Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the Bundestag’s defence committee, “extra a politician than a diplomat — loud, awkward and very disputatious”.

He crossed many traces, she mentioned, however that was comprehensible. “He was a vocal fighter for a rustic that’s experiencing a horrible battle,” she mentioned.

It was for that purpose that the majority politicians in Germany have been ready to miss his occasional lapses of judgment, just like the time he instructed the previous leftist MP Fabio De Masi to “shut your leftwing gob” and referred to as an educational who had steered Ukraine be demilitarised a “actual ar**”.

His sassiness reached a peak in Might after the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was instructed he wouldn’t be welcome in Kyiv and Olaf Scholz mentioned he wouldn’t go to Ukraine over the affront. Melnyk then accused the chancellor of performing like an “offended liver sausage” (German for a prima donna). He later apologised for the comment.

However in June he went too far for even a few of his most ardent followers. In an interview he was quizzed about his angle to Stepan Bandera, the novel Ukrainian nationalist chief whose followers took half in massacres of Jews and Poles throughout the second world battle. Melnyk appeared to query the historic report and refused to distance himself from Bandera. Poland and Israel have been outraged, and mentioned so.

Trying again, he acknowledged he made a mistake. “I do remorse that my phrases might have harm some folks — that was not my intention,” he mentioned.

Bandera, commemorated by some Ukrainians as an anti-Soviet freedom-fighter, and reviled by others as an anti-Semite and fascist, was a problem for “historians, not diplomats” — what was wanted was a “sober, factual” evaluation of his function.

Although the gaffe solid a pall on his popularity, Melnyk is happy with his achievements as ambassador — similar to making certain the query of arms deliveries to Ukraine “was at all times on the forefront of the general public debate” and “excessive on the political agenda”.

However his legacy stays contentious. Many within the German authorities sympathised together with his view that Berlin ought to be doing extra to help Ukraine. “However he didn’t do himself any favours with the best way he introduced that argument,” mentioned one official. “He ended up alienating lots of people and making issues awkward for Ukraine’s true pals in Germany.”

In the meantime, Melnyk leaves behind a lot unfinished enterprise. There are, he mentioned, “nonetheless too many vestiges of the previous coverage”, too many German politicians who need to revive the “particular relationship” with the Kremlin, who hope “we are able to proceed to acquire gasoline from Russia as a result of that’s the premise of [Germany’s] financial success”.

“They’ve simply obtained to ditch these fantasies,” he mentioned. Now will probably be as much as his successor to “keep the stress on the Germans” and ensure they “don’t go wobbly on us”. 

Melnyk was summoned again to Kyiv shortly after the Bandera imbroglio and his future destiny is unclear. Buddies say he has been provided the job of deputy international minister — however he’s hesitant to take it.

He is aware of he’ll in all probability by no means shake off his popularity as a “nerve-saw”. However there was no various, he mentioned, to talking out.

“Might I actually simply keep silent . . . even after I might see how dangerous issues have been getting and the way blind the Germans have been?” he mentioned. “What selection did I’ve?”

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