BERLIN — A planned visit by far-right state politicians from the Alternative for Germany party to a Russian-occupied part of eastern Ukraine has been canceled, according to a party spokesman, after news of the trip prompted widespread criticism.
“The trip has been called off,” a spokesman for the party, known as AfD, said on Wednesday. The spokesman shared an email with The New York Times from a member of the delegation informing the party that they had decided to cancel.
While the vast majority of Germans support Ukraine as it fights the Russian invasion, a number of far-right — and far-left — politicians argue for maintaining good relations with Moscow. That position is controversial, even within the politicians’ own parties.
On Monday, Christian Blex, a statehouse representative in North Rhine-Westphalia, said on the Telegram messaging app that he and two other statehouse representatives from Saxony-Anhalt were visiting Russian-occupied areas of Donbas to see the “humanitarian situation.” He did not give a specific itinerary.
Echoing a Kremlin line, he accused Western media of bias when reporting on the situation in occupied areas.
Critics of the trip pointed out that such a visit under Russian protection would be used to try to scratch away at German unity over the issue. The AfD itself disowned the visit.
“All this shows on which side the AfD stands — Putin’s,” said Katja Mast, a federal lawmaker from the Social Democratic party, on Tuesday. “Such trips are exploited by Putin’s propaganda machine and do massive damage to Germany’s reputation and interests.”
Andrij Melnyk, the outspoken Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, said on Twitter that the trip supported Russia’s “war of extermination” and called on the German domestic intelligence agency to investigate.
Also caught by surprise, apparently, was the leadership of the AfD party.
“We don’t support this trip,” said the AfD party co-chair Tino Chrupalla, on Tuesday, hours before the visit was canceled.