Merkel Ally Sees Putin Design to Trap Ukraine in Frozen Conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to lock Ukraine into a frozen conflict that keeps the country unstable and stymies the economy, according to a senior lawmaker in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party.

Andreas Schockenhoff, who was the German government’s coordinator for ties with Russia for eight years until January, said Putin “is playing for time” as secession attempts by pro-Russian rebels in parts of eastern Ukraine falter. Schockenhoff spoke upon his return from Kiev, where he met with government officials over several days.

“Since the separation of the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk evidently isn’t coming to fruition, Putin is changing tactics to provoking a frozen conflict there,” Schockenhoff, 57, said in an interview today. “That way, stability and security in the region will be impossible.”

Merkel, who grew up under Communism in former East Germany, backed European Union financial sanctions on Russia last month and pressed Putin publicly for months to withdraw support for the armed separatists in Ukraine. Stabilizing Ukraine is “the overriding goal,” she said in a phone call with Putin on Aug. 6, according to a government statement.

Even as Putin pledged yesterday to “do all we can” to end the bloodshed in Ukraine, Russia’s disputed aid convoy for eastern Ukraine and allegations that Russian military vehicles crossed the border overnight kept mistrust high.

“Merkel is in regular contact with Putin in recent days, but Putin doesn’t keep his word,” said Schockenhoff, a deputy leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc in the lower house of parliament in Berlin. For instance, Putin hasn’t fulfilled a pledge to meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, he said.

Putin “is stoking uncertainty by keeping Ukraine and the EU in the dark about his intentions,” Schockenhoff said. “It’s about freezing the regional conflict, which makes economic and political transformation impossible. That’s what Russia is counting on for now.”

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