German football VP apologizes for Zelensky remarks

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German football federation (DFB) vice-president Hermann Winkler on Monday apologized for a disrespectful statement towards Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, which has been deemed "intolerable and insulting" by his president.

DFB president Bernd Neuendorf said in a statement he has talked to Winkler on the phone and told the social posting was not compatible with DFB principles and that the issue would be raised again at a DFB meeting on Wednesday.

Winkler caused a stir the previous day with an Instagram post on the occasion of Zelensky's first visit to Germany since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Berlin this morning. Thanks to a general order due to the visit of a former Ukrainian actor, the city is largely cordoned off and the Spree is partially closed to tourists," Winkler wrote.

The post included a photo of Winkler at the Soviet war memorial in the Berlin district of Treptow and the caption continued: "It's still quiet in Treptow Park — the memorial to the memory of all war victims is still standing."

Zelensky is a former comedian and actor who was elected Ukrainian President in 2019. He met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin before receiving the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen for himself and the Ukrainian people.

Winkler had confirmed to dpa the post was from him but his Instagram account was deactivated on Monday. The post however remained on Facebook until the morning, but was later deleted.

Winkler apologized, saying the post was made "in a very emotional situation for me at the memorial.

"I wouldn't write it again like that. I apologize for this and also for the irritation it caused," he said.

Winkler added that he "condemned this war and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's aggression" in Ukraine, but added that "I don't personally agree either with everything Zelensky does."

While the DFB generally has no influence on social media postings of its top officials on personal accounts, Neuendorf strongly condemned Winkler's statement.

"On the day that he and the Ukrainian people were awarded the international Charlemagne Prize, the mocking symbolism towards the Ukrainian president is intensified," Neuendorf said in the DFB statement.

Germany is an ally of Ukraine in the conflict and its national team will face Ukraine in a friendly on June 12 which will be Germany's 1,000th international match.


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