Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Merkel and Putin fail to see eye-to-eye

  • Merkel and Putin making eye contact: a rare sight according to international reporters (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Differences between Germany and Russia were put on display on Tuesday (2 May), as German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Russia for the first time in two years.

Merkel travelled to Russia in preparation for a G20 summit - an international forum of countries, including Russia - which Germany currently chairs.

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The German chancellor met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi and told a press conference that there was a need to continue dialogue despite their clashing views.

But international reporters present at the press event noted that the atmosphere was tense, and that the two leaders barely made eye contact.

Merkel said it was important that NGOs were allowed to work freely in Russia and voiced concern about attacks on gay men in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian republic.

The German leader asked Putin “to protect the rights of minorities”.

Last month, a Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported that some 100 gay men had been detained or had disappeared.

But Putin said Russian authorities had not broken any laws.

He added that his law enforcement agencies, which are notorious for corruption and human rights abuses, were “far more restrained and lenient in their conduct than their colleagues in some European countries”.

The Russian leader also said his government had “never” tried influence foreign elections, despite a US intelligence report in January that said Russia tried to sway last year's vote.

Merkel and Putin diverged on the war in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-armed and controlled forces were still fighting with the Ukrainian army.

Putin claimed that a coup in Kiev had caused the war, but Merkel said the Ukrainian government was democratically elected.

“We have different views on the causes of this conflict,” said Merkel.

The chancellor said Russia's president had “the responsibility to implement the Minsk Agreements”, referring to an EU-brokered ceasefire deal.

She said there was “not much progress” on Ukraine's side of the Minsk obligations either, but she dismissed the idea of creating a new peace accord.

“I do not think it is advisable to enter into new agreements,” said Merkel.

The two sides noted that, despite political differences, Russia and Germany had close economic ties, with Germany being “the number one investor in the Russian economy”, according to Putin.

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