Politicians in Germany's governing coalition expressed their irritation on Wednesday after the country's veteran President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was refused an invitation to visit the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Steinmeier had been intending to travel there with several Baltic leaders on Wednesday in a show of support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, but the Ukrainian side indicated that it would prefer the presence of the head of government, Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The spat comes against a background of tensions between Berlin and Kiev over the support provided to Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Since the first weeks of the war, Kiev has criticized Berlin on multiple fronts, accusing Germany of being too soft on Russia in the run-up to the conflict, too slow to deliver the kind of weapons that the Ukrainian military wants, and too slow to agree to an energy embargo on Russian fossil fuels.
Plans for German President to visit Kiev in the company of other European heads of state were abandoned after he learned he was not welcome in the Ukrainian capital.
"I was ready to go, but apparently - and I have to acknowledge this - this was not wanted in Kiev," Steinmeier said during a visit to Warsaw on Tuesday for talks with President Andrzej Duda.
The snub to Steinmeier - whose role as president is largely ceremonial but who has held numerous high-ranking government posts in the past - provoked particular displeasure on Wednesday.
"This is more than annoying," said a foreign policy expert in Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), Nils Schmid.
"We are allied counties and it would have been a good sign if Steinmeier could have travelled to Kiev along with other government leaders," he told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
The decision was "totally incomprehensible" to many in Germany, he added.
Wolfgang Kubicki, the deputy head of the Free Democrats (FDP), one of the parties in Scholz's three-way coalition, said the decision could affect whether the chancellor himself goes to Kiev:
"I cannot imagine that a chancellor in a government of which the FDP is also a part would travel to country that had declared our head of state as an undesirable person," he said.
Support Nord Stream 2
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was foreign minister twice in Angela Merkel's government, has been heavily criticized since the outbreak of the war for his alleged lack of firmness against Russia. Similar allegations have also been launched against Merkel herself.
The Ukrainians do not forgive Steinmeier for having supported the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which, if it entered service, would have increased Germany's dependence on Russian gas.