Putin hugging Gerhard Schroeder: birthday pictures anger Germany amid Ukraine crisis

German government has quickly distanced itself after pictures emerge of former Chancellor's birthday party

Photos of Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder sharing an embrace have caused the German government to quickly distance itself from the former Chancellor.

Mr Schroeder was seen enjoying a hug from the Russian President during celebrations for his 70th birthday at a party in St Petersburg outside the Yusupov Palace, according to German media reports.

"He does not represent the German government," a senior government official said when asked about the pictures of Mr Schroeder's meeting with Mr Putin. "It should be clear to everyone that Mr Schroeder left active politics some time ago."

His office had no comment to make on the pictures.

The publication of the images comes at a somewhat inopportune moment as tensions between the West and Russia continue to build over the Ukraine crisis.

Germany, which relies heavily on Russia for natural gas supplies, has been trying to defuse tensions over Ukraine and is seen in the West as reluctant to ratchet up sanctions against Moscow.

The European Union on Tuesday imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 15 Russians and Ukrainians. The US had also imposed new sanctions on allies of Mr Putin on Monday.

Mr Schroeder faced heavy criticism from German media on Tuesday, who condemned the former Social Democrat for not keeping a distance when a government including the SPD was trying to "stop his friend Vladimir from pursuing power-hungry policies".

"Schroeder celebrates his birthday with Putin and makes Germany's foreign policy look absurd," wrote Roland Nelles in a commentary for Der Spiegel magazine's online edition, which published a series of pictures showing Mr Schroeder first waiting for Mr Putin's car to arrive and embracing the Russian president.

Gerda Hasselfeldt, parliamentary leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) which is aligned with Merkel's conservatives, said: "I found the pictures alienating. I hope he used the opportunity to talk to him about the problems."

Andreas Schockenhoff, deputy parliamentary floor leader for Merkel's party, said Schroeder risked undermining the German government as well as his own protege, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"The chancellor and foreign minister have tried to help stabilise Ukraine for weeks and keep the EU together while Putin is trying to destabilise Ukraine and divide the EU," he said. "Pictures like this play into the hands of Putin's propaganda."

Mr Schroeder, chancellor from 1998-2005, has come under fire previously for his close relations with Mr Putin. Schroeder became the board chairman of a German-Russian pipeline joint venture with gas monopoly Gazprom Nord Stream after leaving office.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine