Wall Street Journal (Anton Troianski) on May 10, 2015, reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin over the Ukraine crisis, balancing a tribute to Soviet losses in World War II with a rebuke of Russia’s policies today. Excerpts below:
Ms. Merkel flew to the Russian capital, a day after skipping Moscow’s vast military parade in honor of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. She joined Mr. Putin at a military wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall, walking behind slow-marching Russian soldiers.
In a news conference after the two talked for about two hours, Ms. Merkel described the immensity of Nazi crimes in Eastern Europe but also said that Mr. Putin’s Russia was itself breaking international law in Ukraine. “We have sought more and more cooperation in recent years,” she said of Russia and Germany. “The criminal and illegal annexation of Crimea and the warfare in eastern Ukraine has led to a serious setback for this cooperation.”
Ms. Merkel’s highly anticipated visit—the most high-profile trip by a major Western leader to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began—shed light on the standoff that has emerged between Russia and the West since the start of last year. It also illustrated Ms. Merkel’s challenge as the West’s de facto negotiator-in-chief in the Ukraine conflict, a role weighed down by Germany’s World War II past.
Before their meeting, Ms. Merkel said she had come to Moscow to recall the “millions of victims that the former Soviet Union lost and to tell the people of Russia that we bow down before these victims.”