Former Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk would become Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, a senior Ukrainian official announced on Friday.
Taras Melnychuk, the government’s representative to parliament, announced the appointment on the Telegram messaging app.
Melnyk thanked President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the entire Ukrainian government for its trust.
“It is a great honor and an enormous responsibility, after more than 25 years of my work in the diplomatic service, to serve my homeland in this new and very important function,” Melnyk said, adding he was looking forward to the new role “immensely.”
Melnyk, who is fluent in German and worked in Austria earlier in his diplomatic career, left Berlin in July after a stint of more than seven years as ambassador.
He was by far best known for his last few months in the role, however, following Russia’s invasion. This period included several clashes with senior German politicians over their perceived closeness to Russia or perceived sluggishness to support Ukraine and a drastically heightened media presence because of global events.
He made several impassioned appeals for Germany to send more weaponry more rapidly to Ukraine, a sensitive issue for a country that has been highly reluctant to use its military since the end of the Nazi era and World War II.
The Foreign Ministry in Kyiv had said when recalling Melnyk that he would be moving on to a new role in the ministry, and Kuleba had previously recommended him as a candidate to be his deputy.
Melnyk was critical of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, accusing him of having too many close Russian connections. He also became embroiled in a dispute with Chancellor Olaf Scholz after Steinmeier was told he was not wanted on a visit to Kyiv earlier in the war. When Scholz called Ukraine’s snub of the German president unfortunate, Melnyk used a German idiom to imply that he was feigning insult and was overreacting to the situation.
Melnyk had defended himself in the past, when charged with being undiplomatic in his tone, by saying the time for unflinchingly deferential diplomacy had passed for a Ukraine fighting a defensive war for its survival as a state.
His departure from Berlin also coincided quite closely with comments of his defending wartime nationalist Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera, who still divides opinion in Ukraine and abroad.
Bandera was one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both Nazi and Soviet troops, but his allies also stand accused of the mass slaughter of Poles and Jews in what today is part of Ukraine.
The comments prompted sharp criticism from Poland and Israel and assurances from Kyiv that the opinions did not reflect those of Ukraine’s government.
The former ambassador has maintained an online presence since returning to Kyiv, primarily in the German language. He continues to make appeals for more German support, often with a critical subtext.
As recently as Thursday, he shared an image of a bottle of craft beer he said he saw at a store in the capital; the label bore a caricature of former Chancellor Angela Merkel captioned “Biere blanche Frau Ribbentrop.” That’s a reference to Adolf Hitler’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, who is best known for signing the then-secret accord with the Soviet Union carving up eastern Europe between the two sides before the outbreak of World War II. He would later be hanged after a conviction at the Nuremberg trials for his role in starting World War II and enabling the Holocaust.