Monday

26th Aug 2019

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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. Trump promises UK 'big trade deal' after Brexit
  2. Britain could 'easily cope' with no-deal Brexit
  3. Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta after ordeal
  4. Germany joins France in world outcry on Brazil fires
  5. British people lose faith in Brexit deal
  6. Brexit hardliners want further changes to EU deal
  7. German manufacturers confirm fear of recession
  8. Belgian socialists and liberals scrap over EU post

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Western leaders disagree on Russia, Iran, and Brazil
  2. Belgium: Parties clash on Reynders as EU commissioner
  3. Spain heading for yet another general election
  4. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  5. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  6. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  7. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  8. EU considers new rules on facial recognition

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us