Moscow, 15 February 2021 (dpa/MIA) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has landed in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin – but will not take a Russian coronavirus test before the meeting.
Instead, Scholz has decided to have a doctor from the German embassy carry out the PCR test – a requirement before entering the Kremlin. Russian health officials have been invited to be present for the test, according to sources from the German delegation.
French President Emmanuel Macron also refused to take a Russian PCR test prior to his talks with Putin last week. As a result, their talks took place at a six-meter-long white table to allow for drastic social-distancing measures. At the press conference that followed, the two leaders also stood several meters apart.
Scholz is meeting Putin for the first time on Tuesday for talks about the Ukraine crisis.
The meeting in the Kremlin is scheduled to last for several hours, with a joint press conference to be held at the end.
The visit comes at a time when German-Russian relations are at their lowest ebb. The Ukraine crisis is likely to overshadow several unresolved bilateral conflicts between Berlin and Moscow.
Scholz said during his visit to Kyiv on Monday that he wanted to lobby Putin for de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. He described the deployment of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers along the Ukrainian border as “incomprehensible.”
He also warned Russia against launching an attack on Ukraine and stressed that the EU and the US were prepared to respond with tough economic sanctions.
Ahead of the visit, the Ukrainian ambassador in Germany, Andriy Melnyk, urged the chancellor to take a tough stance with Putin.
“Only a clear ultimatum to Mr. Putin with a deadline to order back his armed-to-the-teeth hordes no later than Feb. 16 can still save world peace,” Melnyk told the newspapers of Germany’s Funke media group in remarks published on Tuesday.
“Should the Kremlin boss ignore this very last warning, extremely painful preventive sanctions against Russia would have to be introduced step by step the very next day,” the ambassador added.
Melnyk said sanctions ought to include a total embargo on imports of oil, gas, coal products and other strategic commodities, a freeze on Russian state assets abroad, a complete ban on investments in Russia and extensive personal sanctions against the Russian leaders and oligarchs.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meanwhile reiterated demands for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s borders.
The responsibility for de-escalation lies “clearly with Russia,” she said before her inaugural visit to NATO partner Spain on Tuesday.
“The fate of an entire country and its population is at stake at the borders with Ukraine due to the Russian troop deployment. The situation is extremely dangerous and can escalate at any time,” the minister warned.
US President Joe Biden had declared that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would also result in the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline.
Scholz himself spoke of a “very, very serious threat to peace in Europe” before his departure.
Russia, on the other hand, has repeatedly claimed that it is not planning an attack on Ukraine – and accuses the US of “anti-Russian propaganda and scaremongering.”