I.On what was probably her last visit as Chancellor to Moscow, Angela Merkel began laying a wreath on the grave of the unknown soldier in the Alexander Garden by the Kremlin wall. A short time later, after the greeting – with flowers – by President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, Merkel explained this by remembering the attack by Hitler Germany on the Soviet Union eighty years ago, which she later emphasized in front of the press.
Such words and gestures count in Moscow, as well as the fact that Merkel will not travel to Kiev until after Putin’s farewell, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj will be expecting her on Sunday. Putin then gave her a list of allegations known from previous meetings between the two of them to the address of the renegade “brother people”.
The conversation lasted more than three hours
After laying the wreath, before the start of their talks, Putin told Merkel in the Kremlin that Germany would remain “one of our most important partners, in Europe, in the world and overall, partly because of your efforts as Chancellor over the past 16 years”. You are “constantly in contact by telephone”, the visit will not only be a farewell visit, but “full of serious business content”.
Merkel cited the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, bilateral relations and the state of civil society in Russia as examples of topics she wanted to talk about with Putin. After more than three hours – and thus appropriately longer than planned – Merkel and Putin appeared in front of their delegations and the press.
Their representatives had to show three negative corona tests from the past four days, as the Putin wanted to carefully shield against any controversy. In addition, the lecterns of the President and Chancellor were set up about 15 meters away from the media representatives and officials, which would have been impossible in the small hall of the Kremlin that had previously hosted press conferences between the two. The choice of the particularly magnificent Alexandrovsky Hall, whose wooden floor gleams majestically, may not only be due to the respect for Merkel, as was emphasized in Moscow, but also simply due to the pandemic.
The appearance went like a number of previous ones: The Chancellor appeared a little stiff and genuinely trying, the President stepped legs apart and confidently. On the anniversary of the poisoning of Alexei Navalnyj with the forbidden warfare agent Novichok, Merkel demanded his release, Putin described the Russian opposition leader as an ordinary criminal.
Putin praised Merkel and the exchange, especially the commercial one, with Germany, but did not respond to a specific request by the Chancellor: German non-governmental organizations that were active in Russia and were banned as “undesirable” in May from a corresponding list of the Ministry of Justice to delete.
Since two of them, the Center for Liberal Modernism and the German-Russian Exchange, belong to the Petersburg Dialogue, the German side suspended the discussion forum in July. One was “very disappointed,” said Merkel. However, it seems hopeless to expect Putin to ease the pressure on the opposition, the independent media and civil society, which is currently more than ever before; While Merkel and Putin were speaking in the Kremlin, it became known that Russia is now pursuing two other media outlets as “foreign agents”, the online channel TV Doschd and the investigative project Vashnye Istorii (Important Stories).
Putin criticizes Western exports of values
Conversely, Merkel had a lawsuit from the Russian state broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today) to reject discrimination in Germany; the Chancellor denied being responsible for media issues. The balance of power also became clear with regard to foreign policy. On issues relating to Ukraine, Putin parried Merkel’s concern about ever new tense situations at the front with allegations against Kiev. It was noteworthy that Putin alluded to the Soviet fiasco in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but used this to criticize Western exports of values to all kinds of countries.
His testimony on Belarus, one of many cases in which Berlin and Moscow are on different sides of the barricade, because Putin supports dictator Alexandr Lukashenko, also fit into this line. Russia’s president turned against “outside interference” in the neighboring country. Putin advocated treating the takeover of power by the Taliban – which is also banned in Russia (as well as Navalnyi’s organizations, by the way) – as a fact that one has to come to terms with.
Merkel, on the other hand, sadly recalled going to school in Afghanistan; The only thing left to do was to ask Putin to insist on aid deliveries from the United Nations for the civilian population in negotiations with the Taliban. Despite flowers, praise and good wishes for the Chancellor, this is the role that Putin loves best.