Monday

22nd Apr 2019

Germany to snub Putin's WWII parade

  • 9 May flags last year: the Chinese president and the leader of North Korea will attend this year's event (Photo: Sue Kellerman)

German chancellor Angela Merkel is to boycott a WWII memorial parade in Moscow on 9 May due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, confirmed the decision on Wednesday (11 March), following a report in German weekly Die Zeit.

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"In view of the Russian actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, participation would seem inappropriate to us”, he said.

He added that she will instead lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Russian capital, together with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, on 10 May.

"The chancellor considers it important to mark the joint remembrance of the end of the Second World War and the liberation from Nazism,” Seibert noted.

"The obligation to keep alive this memory and to commemorate the dead exists irrespective of our current differences with Russia and of our clear criticism of Russia's attitude towards and actions in Ukraine.”

The French leader, Francois Hollande, also won’t be going. But his office cited agenda issues, saying he’s needed at a meeting on climate change in the Caribbean island of Martinique.

Other EU states to boycott the 9 May event include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. US president Barack Obama has also said he won’t be going.

The Czech president, a Putin sympathiser, is the only EU head of state to have confirmed attendance so far.

Greece, Hungary, and Slovakia have been invited. They haven’t made public their decisions. But the fact the German leader said No, despite Germany’s historic burden of guilt, makes it easier for others to say No as well.

“It’s an absolutely correct decision”, a diplomat from one Baltic EU country told EUobserver.

“Especially if you consider that some of the soldiers in the 9 May military parade in Moscow are likely to have taken part in Russia’s campaign in Crimea and in east Ukraine.”

The German and US snubs highlight to what extent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has poisoned relations.

Merkel went to the 9 May parade in 2010, when British and US troops also walked alongside Russian soldiers. In 2005, the then US president, George W. Bush, sat next to Putin at the solemnities.

US lists Dugin

For its part, the US on Wednesday extended its Russia blacklist by 14 names, naming Russian nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, Russian agents in occupied Ukraine, and a handful of former Ukrainian regime members.

It also listed two entities: Russian National Commercial Bank and The Eurasian Youth Union, a pseudo-NGO which, the US says, recruits fighters for the Ukraine offensive.

The Department of Treasury said Russia has violated the “Minsk” ceasefire accord by its recent assaults on the Ukrainian cities of Debaltseve and Mariupol.

“If Russia continues to support destabilising activity in Ukraine … the already substantial costs it faces will continue to rise”, Adam J. Szubin, a senior US treasury official, said.

EU ambassadors also on Wednesday, in Brussels, agreed to extend the EU list for another six months. It names 150 people and 37 entities. It previously covered 151 people, but one of them died.

EU leaders at a summit next week will discuss what to do about economic sanctions, which expire in July.

An EU diplomatic source said the likely outcome is to extend the measures for six months, but not to add fresh ones.

He said the European Commission and the EU foreign service have finalised proposals for a new round of economic sanctions. But these are unlikely to be imposed unless there is significant escalation, such as a Russian attempt to take Mariupol.

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Disagreement over how tough to be with Russia potentially foreshadows new stress in the US-German relationship and, by extension, transatlantic solidarity over what to do about Ukraine.

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EU states have agreed to open trade talks with the US in a bid to rebuild relations with their oldest partner on the world stage.

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