Schroeder
© Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch
FILE PHOTO: Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder brushed off criticism from the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, calling him "a dwarf" in his personal podcast. The diplomat had accused him of being a 'lobbyist' for Moscow.

The veteran politician, who is still deemed a talented orator in Germany, launched his own podcast this week. The otherwise calm conversation, mostly revolving around Germany's "good" handling of the Covid-19 epidemic, suddenly spiraled into an angry outburst by the ex-chancellor near the end.

When speaking about the need to unite in fight against the novel coronavirus and to ditch sanctions imposed against various nations, including Russia, Schroeder attacked Ukrainian envoy Andriy Melnyk without naming him.

"One should not hurt each other with sanctions. And that it true when it comes to Russia as well," he said, adding that he "can't make it out" why "some dwarf from Ukraine" criticizes him for his stance.

When the podcast moderator, Bela Anda, mentioned that the man is in fact Ukraine's ambassador to Berlin, the ex-chancellor was dismissive, saying, "that is of no interest to anyone, including in Germany."

The angry outburst was caused by earlier comments from Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk, who called Schroeder "the top lobbyist of Russia's President [Vladimir] Putin" in an interview with Tagesspiegel. The envoy certainly did not mince any words as he lashed out at the ex-chancellor over his suggestion that Germany ditch the sanctions on Russia that the EU imposed in 2014 over the Ukraine crisis.

Melnyk claimed that Schroeder wants to make "Moscow's aggressive policies socially acceptable" in Germany just because he's a board member of the Russian state oil giant Rosneft, and is therefore the Kremlin's "Trojan horse."

The ex-chancellor, who indeed holds a high-ranking post in Rosneft and also heads a shareholders committee of the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, was a consistent proponent of closer ties with Moscow well before taking up these positions. He opposed the US invasion of Iraq, along with France and Russia, and repeatedly stated as chancellor that Germany needs to maintain good relations with Russia.

As for the Ukrainian ambassador's accusations, Schroeder appeared to be not that far from the truth when he said it would be of little interest to anyone in his country. The German media dedicated lengthy pieces to his first personal podcast and delved into the details of his statements on domestic issues, as well as speculating about a potential return to politics. However, only a few outlets noted the incident with the ambassador, and those that did only briefly mentioned it.