Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin struggle to move past differences in tense meeting

by Itunuoluwa Adebo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during her visit to Russia, said Berlin and Moscow had to keep talking despite their disagreements, but their differences overshadowed her talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday. At a news conference following a meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, opposing positions were aired over Syria, Ukraine, Russian respect for civil rights, and allegations Moscow is interfering in other countries’ elections.

Their body language dripped tensions, their facial expressions as they spoke to the reporters were also stern, and they barely looked at each other. “I am always of the view that even if there are serious differences of opinion in some areas, talks must continue,” Merkel said. “You must carry on, because otherwise you fall into silence and there is less and less understanding.”

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This was Merkel’s first  bilateral visit to Russia since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, a move that set off the worst confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. Since Germany is holder of the rotating presidency of the G20 group of leading nations this year, Merkel has been meeting key members in preparation for a summit.

When asked by a reporter if she feared Germany could be subject to Russian attempts to interfere in its forthcoming parliamentary election by disseminating fake news, Merkel took a firm line.”I am not an anxious person, I will fight the election on the basis of my convictions,” she said, adding Germans would deal decisively with any cases of false information.

Putin, standing alongside her, bristled at the suggestion Russia had meddled in the U.S. presidential election and that it was planning more of the same in Europe. Allegations about Russia trying to get Donald Trump elected as U.S. president were “rumors”, Putin said, generated as part of internal political battles in the United States.

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“We never interfere in the political life and the political processes of other countries and we don’t want anybody interfering in our political life and foreign policy processes,” said Putin.

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