Zelensky sends message to Merkel over ’concessions’ to Russia
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It comes after months of reticence to speak out, after leaving office in December. The former German Chancellor’s 16-year-long record has since been called into question, as her stewardship saw Germany become more reliant on Russia.
One of her pet projects, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would have transported natural gas from Russia to Germany – was shelved by her successor, Olaf Scholz, following the invasion.
Germany and the wider EU has since taken steps to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels over fears the Russian President might weaponise the supply against the West.
Speaking at a trade union ceremony, Ms Merkel said she did not want to offer advice from the sidelines, according to an attendee.
However, she supported the Government’s efforts to “find an end to this barbaric war”.
She added: “My solidarity goes to Ukraine.”
Ms Merkel’s tenure as the leader of Germany saw a thawing of relations with Russia, with the strongwoman often seen close to Putin on the world stage.
She has previously stressed the need to keep talking to the Russian despot, even after the annexation of the Crimea and conflict in eastern Ukraine which led to Western sanctions.
Mr Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have been criticised recently for their continued joint phone calls with Putin, even after allegations of horrific war crimes.
Earlier this week, Baltic politicians said Western nations should cut ties with the Kremlin as it has made direct threats to NATO nations aiding Ukraine in its defence.
Ms Merkel, a former leader of the CDU, gave a brief statement shortly after Russia’s invasion in February.
In it she said there was no justification for the blatant breach of international law, but her silence since then has raised eyebrows.
Actor Ulrich Matthes, a friend of “Mutti”, defended her, telling Stern magazine this week the war concerned her, but she did not want to involve herself.
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He told it: “I suspect she doesn’t want to be a kind of secondary chancellor.”
Other German politicians – including Ms Merkel’s former foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel – have acknowledged that a policy of reconciliation with Russia may have been too optimistic.
Though Mr Scholz has mothballed Nord Stream 2 and vowed to cut the vast amounts of Russian fossil fuels Germany relies on, his response to the crisis in Ukraine has drawn criticism.
Whereas the UK has been cooperating militarily with Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea, and began sending defensive anti-tank weapons in January, Germany has been accused not only of being sluggish to send aid and bring about tough sanctions, but offer flawed weaponry when it did.
In April, German newspaper Bild claimed the “industry list” created with the Ukrainian Government of military equipment requests had been “consolidated” by Mr Scholz to exclude essential items.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the chair of the Bundestag’s defence committee, said Germany was “still lagging behind” other nations on weapons deliveries.
After Ukraine requested a hundred Marder tanks while it awaited refurbished ones it had bought, Markus Laubenthal, Germany’s deputy chief of staff, claimed that if the German Government did so it would limit Germany’s own defensive capabilities.
He commented at the time: “We would no longer be able to react to eventualities, and that would significantly weaken our defensive capability.”
The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, said Germany had 400 of the tanks Ukraine had requested, and that the excuse was “incomprehensible”.
In light of these mounting criticisms, Mr Scholz said earlier on Wednesday that Germany would supply Ukraine with the IRIS-T air defence system.
Later that day, the German parliamentary budget committee cleared a planned €100billion fund to enlarge Germany’s military, to pass through parliament on Friday.
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