21st Mar 2018

Merkel asks Putin to free EU hostages in Ukraine

  • Rebels paraded the OSCE hostages for cameras earlier this week in what Germany called a 'revolting' act which 'hurts the dignity of the victims' (Photo:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has personally asked Russian leader Vladimir Putin to help free EU military officers held by pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine.

She made the appeal in a phone call with Putin on Thursday (1 May).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Her press service said she "reminded Putin of Russia's responsibility as an OSCE member state and appealed for him to fulfill this responsibility".

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, added that the kidnapping is a "totally unacceptable … criminal act".

But the Kremlin statement noted that Putin "stressed that the most important thing now is to withdraw all military units from the south-eastern parts [of Ukraine], stop the violence, and immediately start a national dialogue that would involve all regions and all political forces within the framework of a constitutional reform".

Rebels in Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine, are holding 11 monitors sent by the OSCE, a Vienna-based multilateral body.

They call the group – which includes four Germans, a Czech, a Dane, a Pole, and four Ukrainians – "prisoners of war" and deny Western claims that they and other separatists take orders from Russia.

Amid the high-level diplomacy, the situation on the ground in Sloviansk escalated on Friday morning (2 May), with reports that Ukrainian forces exchanged fire with rebels in an operation to retake the town.

Merkel will on Friday meet with US leader Barack Obama in Washington to discuss the next steps on the crisis.

Her press service underlined that "should Russia show no signs toward a de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine, [the EU and US] could jointly adopt third stage penalties as an answer".

The "third stage" refers to economic sanctions against Russian energy, banking, high-tech, and arms industries to come on top of existing blacklists of Russian officials, oligarchs, politicians and security chiefs.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told press on Thursday that Putin's plan to visit Crimea, a Ukrainian region which he annexed in March, on 9 May will not trigger the move.

But he noted that "should Russia engage in further provocations – up to and including potentially a military intervention, direct military intervention across the Ukrainian border – there will be further severe economic costs to Russia as a result."

US and EU companies with business interests in Russia are urging politicians to hold back.

In Germany, corporate giants Basf, Siemens, Volkswagen, Adidas, and Deutsche Bank are leading the anti-sanctions lobby. "It's up to politicians and historians to determine the efficacy of boycotts, but I have my doubts," Basf CEO Kurt Bock, whose firm has extensive ties with Russia's Gazprom, recently told German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.

German-Russian trade accounts for €76 billion a year. There are 6,200 German firms active in Russia and Berlin has said stage three sanctions could lead to the loss of 300,000 German jobs.

For his part, Carney said the political stakes are too high for leaders to bow to business interests. "There's no question there would be an impact if such steps were taken, both in the United States and around the world. But the costs would be far greater for Russia," he noted on Thursday.

But US senators from the opposition Republican party believe that Merkel, whose decisions shape EU foreign policy, is taking too soft a line.

"We certainly need a clearer, more targeted and more united position," senator Jeff Sessions, who attended a dinner with Merkel on Thursday night in the US capital, told the AFP news agency.

Senator John McCain, who has visited Kiev several times to show support for the pro-Western authorities, added that the German "industry lobby … might as well sit in the [German] federal government. It's a shame".

EU blacklists 15 more Russian officials over Ukraine

The EU has added 15 more names to a travel ban list of Russian officials linked to events in eastern Ukraine, but unlike the US, it refrained from targeting businesses and trade with Russia.


Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

News in Brief

  1. EU to have 'immediate' trade talks with Trump
  2. Separatist activist renounces Catalonia leadership candidacy
  3. EU puts conditions on Bayer-Monsanto merger
  4. Hard Brexit would hit poorer Irish households hardest
  5. Finland hosts secretive North Korean talks
  6. EU to unveil 3% tax on digital giants
  7. German elected S&D leader in European Parliament
  8. Germany: nearly €350m child benefit goes abroad

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  2. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  3. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  4. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  5. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  6. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions
  7. EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints
  8. Five east European states prevent new CAP consensus

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections