The continuation of the dialogue, at all costs. This is the credo that Angela Merkel and Vladimir Poutin hammered home on Friday, August 20, on the occasion of what will probably remain the last visit of the German Chancellor to Moscow before her departure from power.
“Even though we have deep differences, we talk to each other and it must continue like this”repeated Mme Merkel at her joint press conference with Mr Putin. “I hope it will continue like this”, replied the Russian president, who was full of praise for his host, whose longevity in the chancellery “Can only arouse respect”. “Germany remains one of our main partners in Europe and in the world, and that thanks to you in particular”, he added.
These assaults of politeness were expected. Angela Merkel will step down after the legislative elections on September 26, and this visit – the twentieth to Russia since taking office in 2005 – was a new stage of the farewell tour she undertook in mid-July in the United States. “You will always be welcome later”, said Vladimir Putin, without going so far as to offer him a position at the head of a gas company, like the one taken by his predecessor Gerhard Schröder after his departure from the Chancellery.
The hottest issues were carefully avoided during this press conference during which Mr. Putin preferred to insist on the smooth running of bilateral exchanges. Thus, not a word has been said about the accusations of Russian cyberattacks repeatedly launched by Berlin or on the murder of a Chechen opponent in the heart of Berlin, in August 2019, still subject to lively litigation. In May, three German NGOs were banned from Russia, resulting in the freezing of the “Saint Petersburg Dialogue”, a structure launched in 2001 by MM. Poutine and Schröder and supposed to promote contacts between the two civil societies.
Call for the release of Alexey Navalny
On current international topical issues, however, it was the differences that occupied the discussions, giving the exercise a strange look, as if the two leaders were realizing the limits of the much-praised dialogue.
Faced with the press, Angela Merkel immediately addressed the case of the imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny, once again calling for his release. The German Chancellor was expected on the subject, as her visit to Moscow coincided with the first anniversary of the poisoning of Mr. Navalny, victim of a malaise aboard a commercial flight in Siberia, on August 20, 2020, before to be transferred and treated at the Berlin Charité Hospital, where Mr.me Merkel had visited him.
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