News / Europe

Schroeder Criticized for Warm Embrace of Putin

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Germany's former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder attend an economic forum in St.Petersburg, Russia, June 21, 2012.
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Germany's former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder attend an economic forum in St.Petersburg, Russia, June 21, 2012.
Reuters
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Sunday his controversial meeting with Vladimir Putin helped win the release of European military observers held in eastern Ukraine days later and he urged the West to stop focusing on sanctions on Russia.
 
Criticized for media pictures that showed him warmly embracing the Russian president at an April 28 meeting in St. Petersburg, Schroeder said he appealed to Putin to do what he could to free the seven Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers. They were released on May 3.
 
“The Russian president is not a persona non grata,” Schroeder told Welt am Sonntag newspaper when asked about whether it was appropriate to invite Putin to a party celebrating his 70th birthday. “I was really pleased he was able to come because I knew there would be a chance to talk.”
 
Schroeder was attacked in German media for bear-hugging Putin at a time of high tension between the West and Russia over Ukraine.
 
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government immediately distanced itself from Schroeder, saying that Schroeder was acting as a private citizen.
 
The meeting underscored German ambivalence about tougher sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have taken over government buildings in the east and are holding a referendum on self-rule on Sunday - less than two months after Russia annexed the Crimean region following a similar referendum.
 
Schroeder said he had talked to Putin about Ukraine.
 
“And as far as the situation with the OSCE observers goes, it led to a successful result. I used the chance to ask President Putin to help free the hostages.”
 
Separatists had captured the monitoring team on April 25 and called them prisoners of war. A Swede was freed on health grounds, while four Germans, a Czech, a Dane and a Pole were held until May 3.
 
“I believe talking to the Russian president is the right thing to do,” Schroeder said. “I don't have anything to hide, and I'm not going to change the way I am. That's the way we've been greeting each other (bear hug) for the last 14 years, and that's not going to change even in tough times.”
 
Long friendship

Chancellor from 1998-2005, Schroeder has been Putin's best friend in the West since both were ostracized by U.S. President George W. Bush for opposing the 2003 Iraq invasion, but he is sometimes called a Putin apologist in the West.
 
“One should be speaking less about sanctions right now but instead about Russia's security interests,” Schroeder said when asked if he was disappointed with Merkel's crisis management. “I keep hearing that the West 'has to isolate Russia and Putin.' “
 
On Saturday Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said they were ready to agree more extensive sanctions against Russia if a planned presidential election in Ukraine on May 25 is foiled.
 
Schroeder has been excoriated for speaking out in favor of Moscow and against the German government position at times during the Ukraine crisis. His critics say his views are colored by his 250,000 euro salary as board chairman for a pipeline joint venture with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.
 
But others believe the former chancellor's friendship with the Kremlin leader keeps open an important channel of dialogue for Germany.
 
Schroeder said the climate during his one-to-one meeting with Putin was “friendly but also serious.” He declined to reveal further details of their talks.

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Comments
     
by: John Alder from: Europe
May 11, 2014 12:30 PM
When will finally be reported more about the fact that Gerhard Schroeder, when he was German Chancellor, adopted two Russian small children from St. Petersburg with the active help of President Putin? Under German law Schroeder, at his age, would not have been able to adopt. The German press reported about it at the time, although not widely. The fact that Putin was involved makes it likely that also that affair was quite 'fishy.' It also is an element in explaining the close relation between the two men.
In Response

by: asuman galubale from: kampala
May 23, 2014 1:44 PM
the US is acting desperately 2 have sanctions on Russia thinking this will boost its declining economic and military power. haven't you hard on the news (of course not CNN,BBC and the lik) that today many American have a single meal?

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