Angela Merkel Condemns Putin’s ‘Barbaric’ War in Ukraine

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel decried Russia on Wednesday for launching a “barbaric war of aggression” in Ukraine.

“My solidarity goes out to Ukraine which has been attacked and raided by Russia,” Merkel said at a German trade union event in Berlin, per CNBC, in what marked her first public speech since leaving office after 16 years as Germany’s leader. Merkel described the Ukraine conflict as a “glaring breach of international law” and a “far-reaching turning point.”

The former German leader — until recently one of the most influential leaders in the world — has been the target of criticism over her handling of relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and for strengthening economic ties with Russia even as the dynamic between Moscow and the West became increasingly contentious.

Many of Merkel’s critics have zeroed in on the central role she played in pushing for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was meant to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. Opponents of the pipeline project, which was halted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as a result of Russia sending troops into Ukraine, contended it would give Moscow dangerous leverage over Europe. 

Former President of the European Council Donald Tusk in November said Nord Stream 2 was Merkel’s “biggest mistake” during her historic run as the German leader. “From the perspective of EU interests, Nord Stream 2 is a bad project,” Tusk said, as DW reported at the time.

Ukraine has accused the EU of funding Putin’s war machine via ongoing purchases of Russian energy. Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the EU has taken steps to end its reliance on Russian energy. The bloc recently agreed to a partial embargo on Russian oil imports. “This will effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Monday.

The EU embargo bans imports of Russian oil by sea but exempts pipeline imports. But Germany and Poland both said they would halt pipeline imports. Since Merkel left and following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany has adopted a number of historic policy changes — including a decision to provide weapons to Kyiv to aid Ukraine in its fight. That said, the German government continues to face calls to do more and speed up the delivery of lethal aid to Ukraine as Russia makes some progress despite its earlier failings.

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