Scholz Condemns Far-Right Lawmakers for Zelenskiy Speech Boycott

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pilloried lawmakers from the far—right Alternative for Germany and the far-left BSW parties for boycotting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s speech to the nation’s parliament.

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“The chancellor is very disturbed, but not surprised by such disrespectful behavior,” Scholz’s chief spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said.

AfD and BSW legislators skipped out on Zelenskiy’s speech to the lower house, or Bundestag, on Tuesday in protest over the ruling coalition’s support for the government in Kyiv against Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla, the co-leaders of the AfD caucus, published a statement in which they derided the Ukrainian leader — who earlier attended a reconstruction conference — as a “war and begging president” and questioned his legitimacy as the country’s head of state. Although a handful of the AfD’s 77 members were present in the Bundestag to hear Zelenskiy speak, most stayed away, along with the BSW’s 10 deputies.

“The government should not give him a stage for reconstruction begging,” Weidel and Chrupalla wrote. “Ukraine does not need a war president now, it needs a peace president who is willing to negotiate so that the dying stops and the country has a future.”

Sahra Wagenknecht, who co—founded the BSW in January after splitting from the Left party, accused Zelenskiy of “contributing to a highly dangerous spiral of escalation.” A separate statement from the party said he was “accepting the risk of a nuclear conflict with devastating consequences for the whole of Europe.”

“The German government should use its influence on Zelenskiy to get him to agree to peace talks,” according to the BSW statement. “You don’t end wars with weapons, you end wars through peace negotiations.”

The two parties’ talking points echo some of the narratives promoted by the Kremlin, and both have been accused by critics of being too soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

German authorities said last month they’re investigating an AfD lawmaker, Petr Bystron, for alleged corruption and money laundering linked to Russia. Bystron, who was second on the party’s list for the European Parliament elections, has denied allegations that he took cash from a Czech-based, pro-Moscow media outlet.

Friedrich Merz, the chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats, called the actions of the AfD and BSW “a genuine nadir in the culture of our parliament.”

“I am fairly appalled,” Merz told reporters. “The assertion that we have to try to end this war with more diplomacy is completely without any substance,” he added. “The offer has been made and Russia rejected it and in Germany these two parties, the AfD and the BSW, still claim the opposite.”

Although Wagenknecht was previously a member of the Left, some of her new party’s populist policies, including calls for a tougher line on immigration, have attracted voters frustrated with mainstream parties who might otherwise support the AfD, especially in eastern Germany where she is from.

A poll for public broadcaster ZDF published in April showed that 42% of respondents supported an expansion by NATO allies of their backing for Ukraine, while 31% said it should remain at the same level.

--With assistance from Arne Delfs.

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