German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow the children abducted from Ukraine to return home, saying this is "the first step towards peace," during her visit to Kiev on Monday.
Ukrainian children had been abducted and brainwashed in an inhumane way, "with the aim of turning them against their own homeland, Ukraine," the minister said after talks with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
Baerbock arrived in Kiev on Monday morning during her fourth visit to the country since the start of Russia's war in February 2022.
She also met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Addressing those who are neutral on the Russian war, she said: "That is why I appeal to those who quibble to clearly name the aggressor and his crimes: Look at these children."
The issue is also expected to play a bigger role on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York, where Baerbock aims to draw attention to the fate of the abducted children.
According to Kiev, Moscow has taken a total of around 20,000 Ukrainian children from areas near the front to the occupied Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and Russia. Several hundred have meanwhile been able to return to the government-controlled area.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country's Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova over the abductions.
On the issue of providing Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, Baerbock said Germany is not yet ready to make a decision.
"We are more than aware of the situation," the minister said.
"At the same time, it is not sufficient to just promise things," she said. As with the Iris-T air defence system and other German arms deliveries, "all questions must first be clarified."
Kuleba reacted in no uncertain terms to the German government's continued hesitation regarding Kiev's request for the long-range cruise missiles, sought in order to hit targets behind the large Russian minefields.
"I don't understand why we are wasting time," the diplomat said.
Earlier on Monday, Baerbock visited an electrical substation about 50 kilometres outside of the Ukrainian capital.
Baerbock asked Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who is responsible for reconstruction of the country, to show her around the 40-hectare site. With a capacity of about 2,000 megawatts, it is responsible for a large part of the region's electricity supply.
Ukraine's infrastructure facilities have frequently been attacked by Russia.
According to Ukrainian sources, the plant has been hit several times by Russian missiles and by kamikaze drones delivered from Iran.
A week before the UN General Assembly in New York, Baerbock's visit is being seen as a sign of solidarity.
Berlin wants to help Ukraine, which applied last year for European Union membership, to make progress in strengthening the rule of law, fight corruption, and align with EU standards, Baerbock said on arrival.
Baerbock said that Kiev's record on judicial reform and media legislation was already respectable. But "there is still a way to go in the implementation of the anti-oligarch law and the fight against corruption." The EU itself must also "work quickly to ensure that [it is] properly positioned for more chairs at the table."
In May 2022, Baerbock was the first German Cabinet member to visit Ukraine since the war began. At that time she visited the town of Bucha, near Kiev, the scene of alleged atrocities by Russian troops.
She also visited in mid-September 2022 and was last in the country in January, when she visited Kharkiv.