German Chancellor Angela Merkel began talks with President Vladimir Putin on Friday in a historic meeting that marks the end of an era. This is Merkel’s last visit to Russia as German Chancellor.
She must resign after the September elections.
The meeting marks the end of an era as Merkel, originally from East Germany, meets Putin who was stationed in Dresden during his tenure as KGB agent. Merkel and Putin are fluent in each other’s language.
Putin is the only G-20 leader left since Merkel took over Germany’s top post.
The Russian leader has been described by his enemies and fans as both arrogant and charming.
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Relations between two of Europe’s oldest leaders deteriorated in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, sparking widespread condemnation and sanctions from the West.
Friday’s talks coincide with the first anniversary of the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, an incident that has severely strained Russian-German relations.
Putin offered flowers to Merkel ahead of the talks and said he expected a substantive meeting despite it being a “farewell” visit.
Merkel said the two had differences of opinion but it was important to talk. She said she wanted to discuss Afghanistan as well as the situation in Russia with civil society and non-governmental organizations, some of which were banned in a pre-election crackdown.
A press conference is expected around 13:00 GMT.
The anniversary of the poisoning of Navalny, Putin’s most vocal national critic, should feature prominently in their talks.
Navalny was flown to Germany last year after being poisoned by what the West has concluded to be a military nerve agent. Moscow rejects this and alleges a Western smear campaign. Navalny was imprisoned when he returned to Russia.
In a letter to mark the anniversary published in three European newspapers on Friday, Navalny called on the West to do more to fight corruption in countries like Russia.
(With contributions from agencies)