Updated Oct 25, 2022, 4:44pm EDT

German president gets a taste of Ukrainian life with detour to bomb shelter

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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was only in Ukraine for a few hours Tuesday before an air raid siren forced him to take shelter underground for an hour and a half in the town of Koriukivka.

Photos that circulated on social media showed him listening to Ukrainians who told their stories of living through the Russian attacks.

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Lucian Kim, NPR’s former Moscow bureau chief, called it the “photo of the day.”

Steinmeier was disinvited from visiting Ukraine in April, after Kyiv officials said he had been too soft on Russia in the past. But Steinmeier admitted he had made mistakes in his Russia stances, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later invited him to visit.


The experience in the bomb shelter gave Steinmeier a glimpse of what Ukrainians deal with as Russia has increased attacks on civilian areas. Kira Rudik, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, said that for guests, “air raid sirens are sometimes unusual, but for us, unfortunately, they’re everyday life.”

And Ukrainian government advisor Anton Herashchenko said the incident should show foreign allies like Germany why Ukraine needs more air defense systems.

Video published in German media showed Steinmeier greeting politicians outside in Koriukivka, before the air raid siren went off and security forces ushered him inside.