Moscow / Berlin – Conflicts in Ukraine and Libya are at the center of Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) ‘s first trip to Russia since the Corona crisis began on Tuesday.
Other topics of his meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow will focus on Iran, the Syrian crisis and cooperation with Russia at the United Nations Security Council. Growing tensions in relations between the two countries are also expected to emerge.
“Where there is a need for clarification, the best thing to do is to speak openly,” Maas said before leaving. “The German-Russian relationship is too important to be left on its own.” Here are the conflict issues:
CONFLICT IN UKRAINE:
The German government sees Moscow as the key to resolving the last bloody conflict in Europe – in eastern Ukraine. Maas and Lavrov have struggled for years to make progress in implementing the peace plan, which has so far been largely suspended. A next summit to resolve the conflict is planned in Berlin. However, the preparations are overshadowed by new allegations that there is too little movement in the crisis on the Russian or Ukrainian side. The war between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has been going on since 2014. According to UN estimates, more than 13,000 people have died to date.
With the Berlin summit in Libya in January, the federal government played a mediating role in the conflict. Russia is one of the powers heavily involved in the war. The gigantic empire is repeatedly criticized for its support for rebel General Khalifa Haftar. However, Lavrov also met with representatives of the Libyan government in Moscow. The federal government continues to urge the implementation of the Berlin summit resolutions. This includes respecting the arms embargo against Libya which has existed since 2011. According to the United Nations findings, Russia is one of the countries that still does not adhere to it.
MURDER OF A GEORGE:
Relations between the two countries are strained, among other things, by a crime. The trial for the murder of a Chechen of Georgian nationality in Berlin is due to start in the autumn. The Federal Prosecutor considers Russian government agencies to be brains. The German government accuses the Russian government of a lack of cooperation in the investigation and has therefore expelled two Russian diplomats. After the charges against the suspected hitman in June, Maas threatened further punitive measures.
HACKER ATTACK ON THE BUNDESTAG:
The largest cyberattack to date against the Bundestag in May 2015 also caused trouble in Berlin: Computers in many parliamentary offices were infected with spyware, including computers in the Chancellor’s Bundestag office. The Karlsruhe investigative authority has obtained an international arrest warrant against a young Russian hacker. He is accused of acting as a secret service agent and data spy. Merkel recently called the attack on the Bundestag a “scandalous” process. Russian leaders also refused to participate.
BORDER CLOSURE DUE TO CORONA:
For the German economy, the visit focuses on a very practical problem in German-Russian relations. She urges that the borders of the two countries be reopened. The current “dead point” must be overcome by the trip of Maas, said the head of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce (AHK) Matthias Schepp. In order to broaden the traditionally close business contacts, entrepreneurs should be able to look each other in the eye in order to secure new contracts. The EU’s borders with Russia have been closed since March due to the pandemic. Germany is criticized in Moscow for having prevented a European unification from opening the borders with Russia.
With his day trip to Russia, Maas is only leaving the EU for the second time since the Corona crisis began in March. After his short stay in Moscow, he will travel to St. Petersburg, where the focus will be on the memory of the victims of the blockade of Leningrad during WWII. At that time, over a million people died when the Wehrmacht starved the city. Before leaving, Maas spoke of a “heinous war crime against the Russian people, for which Germany is responsible and which must never be forgotten”. The federal government is supporting a hospital for veterans and survivors with 12 million euros.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200811-99-121048 / 2