Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday recalled his country’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, who caused controversy after defending a 20th century Nazi collaborator.
A decree published by Zelenskyy’s presidential office on Saturday afternoon only mentioned the “dismissal” of Melnyk, without providing any further information about the reasons for his removal, where the ambassador would go next, or who would replace him.
German media had previously reported that Melnyk, who had been serving as ambassador in Berlin for almost eight years, would return to the foreign ministry in Kyiv and might even take up a senior role as Ukrainian deputy foreign minister, although this has not been confirmed.
Melnyk had been a decisive but also controversial top diplomat in Germany. He openly criticized the government in Berlin for the slow pace of weapon deliveries to Ukraine during the first months of the war and strongly urged Olaf Scholz’s administration to do more.
In May, he directly attacked Chancellor Scholz, saying he was behaving “like an offended liver sausage” — which is German slang to describe someone who gets offended easily.
Melnyk had sparked a controversy in an interview last week in which he defended Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist leader and Nazi collaborator, who was assassinated in 1959. The ambassador said that “Bandera was not a mass murderer of Jews and Poles,” arguing that there was no evidence for such accusations.
Melnyk’s remarks triggered an outcry in Germany, but the backlash was even heavier in Poland — one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters in the war against Russia — where the foreign ministry officially complained to Kyiv.
Israel’s embassy to Germany had also condemned Melnyk’s remarks, saying that “the statement made by the Ukrainian ambassador is a distortion of the historical facts, belittles the Holocaust and is an insult to those who were murdered by Bandera and his people.”
The Ukrainian foreign ministry publicly distanced itself from Melnyk’s remarks last week. In a statement, the ministry said “the opinion that the ambassador … Melnyk expressed in an interview with a German journalist is of his own and does not reflect the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.”