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28 Mar, 2024 16:32

Friendship with Putin could help end Ukraine conflict – ex-German chancellor

The hostilities between Kiev and Moscow cannot be resolved on the battlefield, Gerhard Schroeder believes
Friendship with Putin could help end Ukraine conflict – ex-German chancellor

Talking to Moscow is the only way to end the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told the press agency dpa in an interview published on Thursday. His personal friendship with President Vladimir Putin could play a role in stopping the bloodshed, Schroeder said.

The former chancellor and Russian leader are known to have close ties that stretch back to when Schroeder headed the German government in the late 1990s. In 2014, Putin attended Schroeder's birthday party in St. Petersburg.

Later, Schroeder joined the boards of directors of the Russian operator of the Nord Stream gas pipeline and energy giant Rosneft. He faced a backlash over his ties to Moscow after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine erupted in February 2022 – and resigned from the Rosneft board in May of that year.

Asked about maintaining his friendship with Putin amid the Ukraine conflict, the former chancellor insisted the two matters were entirely distinct.

“I think it would be completely wrong to forget all the positive things that have happened between us in politics in the past,” he told the German news agency, adding that breaking relationships with friends was “not his style.”

Contacts with the Russian leadership could still prove crucial in the future peace talks, Schroeder believes.

“We have worked together sensibly for many years. Perhaps that can still help to find a negotiated solution,” he said, telling dpa that he saw “no other way” to end the conflict.

“It is obvious that the war cannot end with the total defeat of one side or the other,” Schroeder said.

The former chancellor has repeatedly called for a negotiated solution to the conflict and accused the US of forcing Kiev to reject a peace deal with Moscow. In October 2023, he also said that Western Europe had “failed” to seize the opportunity to push for peace in March 2022.

Schroeder himself traveled to Istanbul and Moscow on a “peace mission” in the spring of 2022 and also met Putin in July of the same year. His efforts yielded no results at that time.

In Germany, Schroeder was ostracized by his own party, which deprived him of his parliamentary privileges, but failed in an effort to expel him over his ties to Russia. In 2023, he relinquished his honorary citizenship of Hannover before the city could strip him of it.

Moscow has repeatedly said it is ready for peace talks as long as the situation on the ground is taken into account. Ukraine has insisted on Russian troops withdrawing from all the territories it claims as its own, including Crimea and the four former Ukrainian territories that joined Russian following a series of referendums in autumn 2022. Russia has dismissed such demands as “absurd.”