Man joins VIP convoy, hugs German chancellor; security breach under investigation

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the European Central Bank, in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday May 24, 2023. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Pool via AP) (Kai Pfaffenbach)

BERLIN – German police have been left red-faced after a member of the public was able to slip into a VIP convoy for Chancellor Olaf Scholz and then give him a hearty hug as he prepared to board a plane at Frankfurt Airport.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported Friday that Scholz's bodyguards only realized their mistake later, and chased the man down.

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In a statement, federal police said the man was detained. Nobody was hurt but an investigation into the security breach has been launched, police said.

Scholz's office confirmed the incident, which happened late Wednesday as Scholz made his way back to Berlin following a celebration for the 25th anniversary of the European Central Bank.

"The encounter and hug at Frankfurt Airport (...) was indeed not planned by the chancellor," Scholz's spokesperson Wolfang Buechner told reporters in Berlin. He said that the incident “was a surprise to him” but the German leader "didn't feel threatened at any point.”

Scholz himself downplayed the incident when asked about it at a news conference in Estonia later Friday.

“As for the question about people saying hello to me and greeting me, that is never something that particularly amazes me — it is perfectly normal, and I didn't feel that this situation was dramatic,” he said. Pressed on possible consequences, he added: “The police do good work, and I feel that I am in safe hands.”

Despite that confidence, Buechner said that "there are questions surrounding this incident and they will be carefully investigated.”

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