Moscow (dpa) – Even greeting her with “dear Vladimir,” as Chancellor Angela Merkel calls Russian President Putin, she quickly gets to the point. There are “deep differences” that both want to talk about. But despite everything, Germans and Russians must continue to talk to each other.
Only in this way can things continue, emphasizes the chancellor, who has known Putin for 16 years. She speaks Russian; he spoke fluent German from his time as an officer of the KGB secret service in Dresden. They understand each other. And yet they never gave each other anything. Not even in the three o’clock on Friday at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
On the anniversary of the poison attack on Navalny
Exactly on the first anniversary of the poison attack on Kremlin adversary Alexei Navalny with the chemical warfare agent Novichok, the chancellor is back with Putin for the first time in a long time. You have “demanded again the release of Alexei Navalny and also made it clear that we will stay on the case here”. Putin refutes, claiming that Navalny is in prison not for political but for criminal acts.
The two know they can’t get together at this point. To this day, Russia has refused to investigate the matter. Navalny blames Putin himself for the assassination attempt on him. The EU has also imposed sanctions on Russia over the poison attack.
Merkel also criticizes the work bans of three German non-governmental organizations. If these were removed from the Russian list of undesirable organizations, the dialogue in Petersburg for civil society cooperation in both countries could be resumed. The German side has frozen the format. But Russia has been strict about this for a long time. And Putin also makes it clear that he will not tolerate outside interference or instruction.
Reception at the Grand Kremlin Palace
Nevertheless, the head of the Kremlin welcomes the Chancellor, who previously commemorated the victims of World War II with a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in the Great Kremlin Palace with flowers in white and pink. It is also a gesture to say goodbye to your chancellorship. But he knows Merkel is not in Moscow for attentions. There is a lot of conflict that they both discuss.
It’s also about the situation in Afghanistan, which Putin again sees as an example of the West’s failure to teach democratic values to other countries. The chancellor, on the other hand, confirmed that the West had succeeded in averting the acute threat of terrorism from Afghanistan. “But she’s not permanently banned,” she says in the palace’s Alexandrowski room, which gleams with gold. And she asks for help in rescuing Afghan local workers.
Putin, in turn, calls on the chancellor to influence the Kiev government in the Ukraine conflict. Merkel will travel there this Sunday to meet the Ukrainian president. To the delight of the Russian president, she is committed to the Minsk peace plan to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. There, despite a ceasefire, people continue to die in the disputed areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Merkel must now help Ukraine to comply with the Minsk agreements, Putin says.
The president is doing a lot this Friday so that Merkel will remember her last visit to the Kremlin. The Chancellor will remember the Moscow receptions with considerably less pomp and circumstance. By Russian standards, the conversations in the magnificent Kremlin Palace are a very respectful farewell – even if it’s not clear whether the two really last met. The 67-year-old associates the word “farewell visit” with “maybe.”
“During her tenure, the political systems of Germany and Russia diverged further,” Merkel sums up, but still finds appreciative words: “But I am very happy that, despite major differences, it has always been possible to open this channel.”
Putin also kindly rejects Merkel: “In the future, we will be very happy to receive the chancellor in Russia. We have great respect for their achievement.” Merkel is “rightly one of the most respected leaders in Europe and internationally”. Both did not always agree, but had “always had an open and meaningful dialogue”.
Unlike Merkel, Putin has not yet thought of leaving the state office. After more than 20 years in power, following a constitutional amendment last year, he could rule until 2036 if re-elected in 2024 and 2030.