Angela Merkel uses strongest language yet about Putin

German chancellor signals she is ready for long confrontation over Ukraine

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in  2012. File photograph:  Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in 2012. File photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

 

German chancellor Angela Merkel signalled she’s ready for a long confrontation with president Vladimir Putin over Ukraine as her foreign minister said the two countries’ ties will be “remapped”.

As government forces and pro-Russian separatists battle it out, Germany’s goal is keeping Ukraine sovereign and whole, and Russia’s actions threaten “the peaceful international order and breach international law”, Merkel said in a speech to parliament in Berlin.

“We need patience and staying power to overcome the crisis,” she said to applause from lower-house lawmakers.

Economic sanctions on Russia “remain unavoidable” as a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine fails to hold, she said.

Ms Merkel, who has emerged as Europe’s main conduit to Mr Putin in the Ukraine crisis, used some of the strongest language yet to hint at her exasperation as she retraced attempts by world leaders to reach out to the Russian president during a year of conflict.

Germany was “sparing no effort” to try to reach a diplomatic solution, she said. The European Union’s biggest economy has also taken into account Russian concerns about the impact of Ukraine’s free-trade agreement with the bloc that triggered the crisis and preceded Mr Putin’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.

“None of this justifies or excuses Russia’s annexation of Crimea,” said Ms Merkel, who had a four-hour discussion with Mr Putin at the group of 20 summit in Australia this month. “None of this justifies or excuses the direct or indirect participation in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia is breaching Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

“The relationship with Russia will definitely have to be remapped,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in speech to parliament. “Where we will stand 10 or 15 years from now, what the European security architecture will look like . . . I don’t know.”

Merkel’s government is also alarmed by Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko’s plan to hold a referendum on Ukraine joining Nato, seeing it as a dead end that would only exacerbate tensions with Russia, according to spokesman Steffen Seibert.

In Moscow, the Micex Index fell 0.1 per cent to 1,527.53. The ruble fell 1.2 per cent against the dollar, its second day of decline.

Ukraine’s government said on Wednesday morning that rebels had fired on its forces dozens of times in the past 24 hours. The September 5th ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has been repeatedly broken. - Bloomberg