Bavarian governor draws criticism over Putin visit

Bavarian governor draws criticism in Germany over visit to Moscow

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, February 3, 2016

Bavarian state governor Horst Seehofer has drawn criticism in Germany for visiting Vladimir Putin and his softer tone regarding sanctions against Russia.

Seehofer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel but a harsh critic of her refugee policy, started his visit to Moscow on Wednesday night.

He called on his way for loosening sanctions on Russia "in a foreseeable period of time."

Gernot Erler, the German government's coordinator for relations with Russia, accused Seehofer of a lack of solidarity, Associated Press reported.

“Pressure is needed to ensure that Moscow behaves constructively in implementing a peace accord for Ukraine, and creating impressions of disunity isn't helpful,” Erler told Deutschlandfunk radio.

"We have prepared this trip very carefully ... and we are not pursuing any parallel foreign policy," Reuters cited Seehofer telling ZDF television on Sunday.

He added that his visit was primarily motivated by the good relations - especially in trade - between wealthy state and Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer arrive to give a statement during the annual CSU Epiphany meeting in Bavaria, January 6, 2016

Seehofer’s decision had attracted criticism from different political fragments.

"Seehofer has clearly positioned himself against the chancellor in the debate on refugees - I really hope he doesn't go on this trip," Roderich Kiesewetter, a foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), had earlier said.

"If Seehofer goes, he needs to warn the Russians that they need to stop the hybrid falsification of information and the undercover financing of radical right-wing networks," he had told Welt am Sonntag, referring to discredited claims that a 13 year old Russian-German girl was kidnapped and raped by refugees.

The claim was denied by prosecutors on Friday, saying they have proof that it is false.

"Foreign policy is made in Berlin, not in Munich," Deputy Niels Annen from the Social Democrats, Merkel’s coalition partner, told the same newspaper, referring to the capital of Bavaria.

"One organises resistance among the conservatives to a humanitarian refugee policy while the other uses his propaganda network to mobilise hundreds of German-Russians to hold hostile demonstrations outside German refugee homes," Juergen Trittin from the Greens told Welt am Sonntag.

TRTWorld and agencies