Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth arrived in Odessa on Monday for a two-day visit. The Greens politician is the first member of the federal government to be a guest in the port city on the Black Sea after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
Roth is in Odessa at the invitation of the Ukrainian Minister of Culture Olexandr Tkachenko. The city has an incredible amount of culture, Roth said at the start of the trip. “We want to show that we are there,” says Roth, “we want to show how culture is being attacked.”
She wants to find out in Odessa what the face of the war looks like beyond the question of heavy weapons. Offers of humanitarian aid are still rarely mentioned in the debates. The city is not only considered a cultural metropolis, but is also of strategic importance. Recently there were reports of rocket attacks in the Odessa area.
In Moscow and Kyiv it is repeatedly said that Russia also aims to capture the port city in the south of the country in order to completely separate Ukraine from the Black Sea. The country would then no longer have access to the oceans.
Ukraine is one of the largest grain producers in the world. Exports via the Ukrainian seaports have come to a standstill. Russia is blocking the export of around 20 million tons of grain, most of which is in the port of Odessa.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) at the end of May each visited Kyiv on behalf of the Federal Cabinet. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) and Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD) have also been to Kyiv.
Unlike several other Western heads of state and government, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has so far refrained from visiting Ukraine. This was also a reaction to the fact that the Ukrainian side initially refused a visit from Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. These upsets are considered resolved.
Roth has already campaigned several times to support Ukrainian artists in her country and refugee artists in Germany as well as Ukrainian cultural institutions. In Odessa she meets, among others, the governor of Odessa Oblast, Maksym Marchenko, and the city’s mayor, Hennady Trukhanov. The Minister of State for Culture also wants to visit the Odessa Film Studio, the city’s Philharmonic Theatre, the opera, ballet and the Odessa Scientific Library.