NSOskau (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Berlin on Friday for talks in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Merkel’s visit to Moscow coincides with the anniversary of the poisoning of Putin’s Russian opponent Alexei Navalny. The 45-year-old is in the criminal camp and holds the Kremlin chief personally responsible for the attack on August 20, 2020. Merkel had asked Moscow to investigate the attack using the chemical warfare agent Novichok.
Russia refuses to investigate, claiming there is no crime. The chancellor also requested the release of Navalny. The politician was arrested in Moscow on January 17 – after returning from Germany, where he was treated and met with Merkel. He is serving his imprisonment in the criminal camp because, according to a controversial ruling, he was said to have violated the terms of registration in Russia during his time in Germany.
The case of the opposition activist, who was nearly killed a year ago, is part of a series of many conflict issues that have severely strained relations between the two countries. After the internationally condemned attack on Navalny, the European Union also imposed sanctions on Russia. Punitive measures are also in place against Russia for a hacker attack on the German Bundestag in 2015 and for the conflict in Ukraine. The list of problems is long:
The conflict in Ukraine
It is also about the conflict in eastern Ukraine, government spokesman Stephen Seibert said in advance, “to resolve it, Russia can do more than it does.” Germany is mediating between Russia and Ukraine in the conflict in which parts of the Moscow-backed Luhansk and Donetsk regions seceded from the central government in Kiev. The peace plan is pending. After Putin’s visit, Merkel will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selinsky in Kiev on Sunday. The Ukraine summit in Berlin has been planned for a long time. There is no date.
Nord Stream 2
Merkel and Putin also want to talk about the controversial Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline on the Baltic Sea, which is due to be completed this month. Germany wants to ensure that Russia continues to pump gas through Ukraine to Europe after the pipeline is operational. The contract initially runs until 2024. It is unclear whether there will be a resolution to the dispute.
Chronically declining Ukraine depends on billions of dollars in revenue from Russian gas transit. The former Soviet republic fears that Nord Stream 2 will cause it to lose its place as the most important transit country. On the other hand, Russia wants to become more independent of the faltering gas transportation system of the neighboring country.
Seibert said that the situation in Belarus, where a dictator acts in the worst possible way against his own people and over which the Russian leadership has influence, will also be a problem in Moscow. Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko no longer prevents refugees from continuing to travel to the European Union – as a response to Western sanctions against the former Soviet republic, cut off from the West. Since then, Lithuania in particular has been struggling with an increased influx of migrants from the Middle East across the border with Belarus.
Also likely to be the topics are the situation in Afghanistan and the parliamentary elections in both countries in the second half of September. Both sides accuse each other of trying to influence the vote. According to EU experts, Germany is the most important target of Russian disinformation campaigns. Germany will elect the new German parliament on September 26, and Russia a week earlier. Politicians around the imprisoned Navalny are excluded from the vote.
Human Rights and the Petersburg Dialogue
Human rights activists complain of increasing repression against those who think differently in Russia. Many independent media and organizations have had to stop operating recently. Human rights activists, civil society representatives, and journalists consider themselves “foreign agents”. Three German NGOs that Moscow declared persona non grata have also recently been affected.
Therefore, the German side froze its work in the Petersburg Dialogue, which was established 20 years ago. Putin established the communication platform for civil society in both countries with then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Putin recently stated that he is ready to work with Germany, Russia’s most important economic partner in the European Union.
Merkel last visited Moscow in January 2020. 80 years after Hitler’s Germany attacked the Soviet Union, she also wants to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Kremlin.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210820-99-903658 / 2
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