Thursday

24th Sep 2020

Putin and Merkel clash over 'anti-Semitic ' Pussy Riot

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has confronted Russian leader Vladimir Putin on human rights while visiting Moscow.

Speaking at a business forum in the Russian capital on Friday (16 November), she said his recent jailing of two members of the Pussy Riot punk band, who staged an anti-government protest on the altar of a Russian church, was disproportionate.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Putin is a close friend with Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. But relations with Merkel have been tense from the start (Photo: kremlin.ru)

She also said that a series of new Russian laws to curb foreign funding for NGOs and to impose harsher penalties for street protests is a step in the wrong direction.

"Having to go to a prison camp for two years for that [the church stunt] - this would not have happened in Germany," she said, according to AP.

"It won't make our friendship better if we sweep everything under the carpet and don't discuss it ... We are irritated, myself included, by a string of laws adopted by Russia recently," she added.

For his part, Putin came close to accusing Merkel of anti-Semitism.

"I wonder whether the Chancellor is aware that one of the group members once hanged an effigy of a Jew and called for Moscow to be cleansed of them ... We cannot support, with you, people who hold anti-Semitic positions," he said.

One of the jailed women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, in 2008 took part in another provocative protest in which people acting as Jews, homosexuals and migrant workers - typical targets for right-wing Russian youth groups - pretended to be hanged.

Putin also indicated that Merkel is ignorant of what goes on in Russia.

"As for political and ideological issues, we hear our partners. But they hear about what's happening from very far away," he said.

The two leaders have had prickly relations for years.

But Germany is Russia's main trade partner in the EU, with the two countries doing more than €60 billion of business a year, despite the bad chemistry.

Pussy Riot the same day also came up on the other side of the Atlantic when the US Congress passed its so called "Magnitsky Bill."

The new law is designed to normalise Russia-US trade relations, but it includes an amendment forcing the state department to publicly impose travel bans and asset freezes on foreign VIPs who face credible allegations of human rights abuses.

It is named after Sergei Magnitsky - a Russian accountant who was murdered in prison in 2009 after he exposed a tax embezzlement scam by senior officials.

Republican senator Steve Cohen told the US assembly: "We must hold Magnitsky's killers accountable." He added that the Pussy Riot trial was a "farce" and that "these are exactly the sorts of victims contemplated in this legislation."

Pro-Magnitsky campaigners hope the US legislation will encourage a similar move at EU level.

EU diplomats have in the past said they cannot put travel bans on human rights abusers because they would have to sanction thousands of people around the world in order to be consistent.

Meanwhile, Russia has threatened diplomatic retaliation against the US and the EU if either side goes ahead.

But the Magnitsky bill got through Congress by a huge majority - 365 votes against 43 - despite the sabre-rattling.

It still has to go through the Senate and to be signed by US President Barack Obama before it enters into force.

EU to Russia: Free Pussy Riot

The EU has called for Russia to reverse the jailing of three young women over their "punk prayer" against Putin and the Russian church.

Merkel caves in on Russia appointment

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted the appointment of a pro-Moscow veteran as special coordinator for Russia policy, a concession made to her coalition partner.

Opinion

The Russia-EU-US drama

As Russia’s growth model is shifting, the EU and the US seek to reset bilateral relations, writes Dan Steinbock.

News in Brief

  1. Belgium: masks no longer mandatory from October
  2. Report: China built 380 Muslim internment camps
  3. Belgian government formation in final phase
  4. Lukashenko sworn in at secret ceremony
  5. Study: No-deal Brexit more costly than corona for UK
  6. Polish miners in underground protest against energy plan
  7. EU animal farming emits more CO2 than cars
  8. Navalny leaves Berlin hospital after poisoning attempt

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  2. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  3. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities
  4. EU 'failed' to safeguard civic freedoms during pandemic
  5. The corruption fuelling the Bulgaria protests
  6. EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link
  7. EU states struggle to better sync Covid-19 measures
  8. EP groups drop homophobe from Sakharov prize

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us