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
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...