Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany must “keep extending our hand to Russia,” a day before Ukraine holds presidential elections amid pro-Russian separatist violence in the country’s east.
“Our task now” is to “keep talking with Russia” amid disagreement over Ukraine, Merkel told a rally of her Christian Democratic Union party in the western city of Worms today. She evoked Europe’s wartime carnage during the 20th century, saying “we solve our conflicts differently nowadays -- with peaceful talks, not war.”
Merkel’s message on the eve of Ukraine’s election reflects a shift from U.S. and European threats of further sanctions on Russia in early May toward ensuring the vote can be held in most of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested he’ll recognize tomorrow’s election result.
Merkel, whose country is Russia’s biggest European trading partner, reiterated her opposition to joint euro-area debt and said the joint currency has regained market confidence as she wrapped up her campaign for European Parliament elections with a speech outside the city’s 12th-century cathedral.
Raised in Soviet-dominated East Germany, Merkel speaks Russian and has sought to balance pressure for sanctions from allies such as the U.S. with concern among the German public and companies that relations with Russia may worsen. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March, declared illegal by the U.S. and Europe, led to a Cold War-style standoff and German warnings of a new division of Europe.
The chancellor told lawmakers of her Christian Democratic bloc in Berlin on May 20 that disruption is limited to small parts of eastern Ukraine and she’s hopeful that Russia will recognize the election result, according to two officials present at the meeting.