December 3, 2021

Did Merkel do a deal with Putin on Afghan refugees?

Ukraine claims Germany did a deal with Russia on Afghan refugees to snub its current Crimea summit, however EU diplomats discover it onerous to consider.

“[Russian president Vladimir] Putin demanded of [German chancellor Angela] Merkel the withdrawal of [German foreign] minister [Heiko] Maas from the Crimea Platform and she abided by his wishes,” a Ukrainian authorities supply informed EUobserver, referring to this week’s Crimea summit and to a assembly between Putin and Merkel final Friday (20 August).

  • German overseas minister Heiko Maas declined to go to Kyiv on the final minute (Picture: bundeskanzlerin.de)

“We have also heard that, in Moscow, Putin convinced Merkel of Russian influence with the Taliban, including when it comes to dynamics that will determine how large the flow of migrants is from Afghanistan to Europe, especially Germany,” the supply stated.

“Ukraine and its territorial integrity are being used as a bargaining chip by Germany and Europe in their relations with the Kremlin,” the Ukrainian supply added.

The Ukrainian contact stated he had proof of his allegations, however he declined to share it, referring to the sensitivity of the knowledge and the necessity to defend sources.

He additionally cited circumstantial details which, he stated, indicated that Putin had been “emboldened” by his Merkel assembly.

Russia, the identical day, additionally blacklisted Ukraine’s overseas minister, Dmytro Kuleba, due to the Crimea summit, as an illustration.

“Sanctioning a foreign minister is extremely rare,” by way of worldwide diplomacy, the Ukrainian supply famous.

Germany’s Maas had been attributable to attend the Crimea Platform in Kyiv on Monday and Tuesday to showcase EU resistance to Russia’s occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

However Maas pulled out on the final minute, citing the necessity to focus on Afghanistan evacuations, with Germany sending its financial system and vitality minister, Peter Altmaier, as an alternative.

The German overseas ministry didn’t reply to EUobserver’s questions.

However a German supply performed down the last-minute change, saying Altmaier was a shut ally of Merkel and an necessary determine in Germany’s ruling coalition.

“I don’t think minister Altmaier would see himself as a downgrade,” the German contact stated.

In the meantime, France and Italy made comparable downgrades to their Crimea Platform delegations, in what Ukraine noticed as the foremost EU states following Germany’s lead.

However an EU diplomat additionally poured chilly water on Ukraine’s claims of a Merkel-Putin deal.

“It sounds like a typical Ukrainian conspiracy theory,” he informed this web site.

The very fact Merkel went to see Russia earlier than going to Ukraine and that she despatched Altmaier nonetheless created unhealthy optics in Kyiv, the EU diplomat famous, nonetheless.

“Ukraine’s [other] allies sent presidents, prime ministers, foreign, or defence ministers [to the Crimea summit], because the occupation of Crimea is not a matter for energy ministers,” he stated.

Altmaier can also be “associated in Europe with a pro-Russian agenda” in Berlin, not least as a result of he’s a massive supporter of the Nord Stream 2 gasoline pipeline from Russia to Germany, which harms Ukraine by making out of date its EU gas-transit system.

“It was senseless of Altmaier to go [to Kyiv] and it looked like a provocation,” the EU supply stated.

“But Germany has had a ‘Russia first’ policy for over 30 years and nothing has really changed,” he stated.

For all that, the query remained whether or not Putin was in a position to leverage the Afghan disaster to frighten EU leaders into making offers.

Refugee politics

For the EU diplomat, Russia and Belarus had, collectively, tried to irritate EU fears on immigration by just lately pushing hundreds of Arab and African asylum-seekers over the Belarusian border into Lithuania and Poland.

“This looks like a joint [Belarus-Russia] operation,” he stated.

However for one Belarusian opposition activist, who requested to not be named to guard his security, even when Putin was telling Afghan scare tales to EU leaders, then he was bluffing.

The very last thing Putin would need, politically talking, can be to open a hall for Afghan refugees to undergo Russia en path to the EU, the Belarusian supply stated.

“German [federal] elections are in September, so Russia would have a very small window of opportunity for such operations,” the supply famous, alluding to the menace that new arrivals of refugees may hurt Merkel’s celebration within the vote.

“Meanwhile, the [1980s-era] Afghanistan war is a bad memory for all Russians. Chechnya [a majority Muslim Russian region] and its terrorism have also left their mark. To play with all this before the parliamentary elections in Russia [in September]? Islamic refugees on Russian territory during tough elections? I’m not so sure,” he stated.

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