On August 20, a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel took place in Moscow. The parties discussed issues of bilateral interaction, as well as a number of international topics. The leaders of the countries also touched upon the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, but this was not the main topic of the meeting.
The parties spoke about the military-political crisis in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops and their allies. According to Merkel, the fact that the Taliban (the movement is banned in Russia as a terrorist) was able to seize power in the country, causes frustration, but this is a reality that has to be reckoned with. She called on the international community to combat the prospect of a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.
Vladimir Putin has a similar opinion. He stressed that the operation in Afghanistan cannot be called successful, but it is not in the interests of the Russian Federation to “hang on” on this and call it a failure. According to him, Russia is interested in stability in Afghanistan. In addition, the Russian leader noted, the West should respect other countries and “give the peoples the right to determine their own destiny, no matter how long they go along the path of democratizing their countries.”
At a press conference following the meeting, relations with Ukraine and the Minsk Agreements were mentioned: Merkel pointed out that Ukrainian servicemen continue to die on the line of demarcation, and the “Normandy format” of the international settlement of this problem is experiencing “some stagnation.”
As the Russian president noted in response, violations of the Minsk agreements are reaching such a scale that Kiev will soon cease to comply with them altogether. He warned that Ukraine was preparing a de facto unilateral withdrawal from the agreements, and called on Merkel to influence the Ukrainian authorities to fulfill all their obligations on Donbass.
The Chancellor paid special attention to the issue of the founder of FBK (included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent and recognized as an extremist organization) Alexei Navalny. In her opinion, the situation with him is “depressing and unacceptable.”
Merkel recalled that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Navalny’s sentence arbitrary and disproportionate. At a meeting with Putin, she stressed that the German side will continue to monitor the development of this case, and called for the release of Navalny.
The head of the Russian state replied that he was not convicted of political activity, but for “criminal offenses against foreign partners.” He stressed that no one should hide behind political activities in violation of the law.
Merkel’s visit to Moscow began with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden. There was a moment of silence, after which the orchestra played the German national anthem.
Vladimir Putin greeted her with the phrase Guten Tag (“Good afternoon”) and, as usual, presented her with a bouquet of flowers – peonies and chrysanthemums. The Chancellor greeted the Russian leader with the same phrase in Russian and addressed him “dear Vladimir”.
This is Merkel’s last visit to Moscow as head of the German government. For more than 15 years in office, she has been on an official visit to the Russian capital 20 times.
On Sunday, August 22, Angela Merkel is scheduled to travel to Kiev and meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal. Following the visit, she will speak with Zelensky at a joint press conference.
It is reported that in the Ukrainian capital, the chancellor will also lay a wreath at the Unknown Soldier memorial, but the Ukrainian leader will do it with her. In addition, according to media reports, Zelensky is going to award Merkel with the Ukrainian Order of Freedom.