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Merkel comments on Russia-Ukraine conflict for first time

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has marked a “major crisis point,” ex-German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday evening in her first public speech in around six months. The former chancellor has condemned what she described as Moscow’s “barbaric war of aggression” and voiced her support for Kiev.

“I stand in solidarity with Ukraine, [which has been] attacked and invaded by Russia,” Merkel said, adding that she supports the Ukrainians’ “right to self-defense.” She also said she supported “all the efforts” taken by the current German government, led by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, as well as those by the EU, the US, NATO, and the UN to “stop” this conflict.

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The former chancellor warned that no one could really predict the consequences this conflict would have for the world. She also called for “unity” within the EU and said that “we should never take peace and freedom for granted.”

Merkel made her statements during a speech in front of some 200 guests attending a farewell party of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) head, Reiner Hoffmann, who was leaving his post. 

Some German media outlets were quick to note that Merkel did not say a word about her own policy towards Russia. The former chancellor has been accused at home of increasing Germany’s dependence on Russian energy, which it now seeks to reduce in line with EU sanction policies.

Merkel defied threats of sanction from the US and pushed ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline during her last tenure. The current government axed the almost-completed project within days of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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