Monday

23rd Apr 2018

Germany: Russia is 'partner' despite UK attack

  • Putin got six more years in office on Sunday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, has pledged solidarity with the UK, while describing Russia as "a difficult partner".

He spoke ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (19 March), one day after Russian leader Vladimir Putin secured six more years in power and in the wake of British allegations that Russia poisoned a former spy in the UK using a nerve toxin.

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.

  • Maas (r): "Russia will remain a difficult partner" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Maas said it was up to Russia and the UK to clarify details of the evidence "bilaterally", but added that "all the information we have suggests there is no alternative plausible explanation" than that Russia did it.

He said Germany and other EU states would make clear they were "firmly on the side of Great Britain".

He added that "dialogue" with Russia ought to continue, however.

"We assume that Russia will remain a difficult partner," he said. "Russia is … needed when it comes to solving major international conflicts. That is why we want to stay in dialogue, but we expect constructive contributions from Russia," he said.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also spoke out.

He said on Monday there was "no other plausible explanation" than that Russia had tried to poison Sergei Skripal, its former spy, and pledged "solidarity with Great Britain".

The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is to brief EU ministers on the issue at Monday's meeting, an EU source said.

The Russian election will also be mentioned, but a more substantial debate on EU-Russia relations will take place either at an EU summit later this week or at another foreign ministers' meeting in the coming months, the source said.

Johnson gave a foretaste of what he might say at Monday's EU gathering going into the event.

He said Russian claims, that Novichok, a Russian nerve toxin used in the attack, could also have come from the Czech Republic, Sweden, the UK itself, or the US were "absurd".

"This is a classic Russian strategy of trying to hide the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation", he said.

He said he was "heartened" by EU support so far, adding: "There isn't a single country around the table here [in Brussels] that hasn't been affected in recent times by some form of malign or disruptive Russian behaviour".

He spoke after the Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, suggested to the BBC on Sunday that the UK might have poisoned Skripal.

Putin said in Moscow the same day: "It's complete nonsense to imagine that anyone in Russia could resort to such tricks ahead of the presidential elections and World Cup".

Putin result

Preliminary counting showed Putin won 76 percent of the vote in an election that had excluded all serious contenders and that saw a pro-Putin media blitz.

"The election campaign in Russia has been rigged to president Putin's advantage, including government control over the media and opposition parties who are prevented from applying," Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstroem said on Sunday.

The EU foreign service noted that Europe would not recognise that part of the election held in Russia-occupied Crimea in Ukraine.

EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini added that ministers would pledge political and financial backing for Ukraine on Monday.

Ukraine support

"I was in Kiev exactly one week ago to pass the message of full support both to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and the non-recognition policy of the annexation of Crimea," she said.

The Minsk peace agreement says Russia must pull out troops and weapons from Ukraine and hand back control of the border to Kiev, among other conditions.

The EU has said it will not relax sanctions on Russia until this take place.

Correction: This story, originally entitled "Russia poisoning is not EU concern, Germany says", had reported that German foreign minister Heiko Maas called the Skripal case a "bilateral" matter. In fact, he pledged solidarity with the UK, but said cooperation on evidence should be handled bilaterally. EUobserver amended the article after a clarification by the German EU embassy

EU summit takes hard look at Russia

EU leaders will discuss Russian security threats in the wake of the UK attack, but will not adopt new sanctions at Thursday's summit.

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

EU foreign ministers to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK over Russia's chemical attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

News in Brief

  1. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  2. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  3. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  4. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  5. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  6. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  7. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  8. MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  2. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  3. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  4. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  5. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  6. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  7. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  8. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights