Friday

23rd Jun 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  2. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  3. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  4. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  5. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  6. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  7. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit
  8. EU pressures firms to tackle online terrorism