Ukraine aide hits out at Merkel defence of Russia policy

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had "nothing to apologise for" and that Russia's invasion was "a turning point". PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KYIV (AFP) - Ukraine on Wednesday (June 8) criticised comments by former German chancellor Angela Merkel who insisted she was not naive in her dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The veteran leader frequently met with Putin during her 16 years in power and championed a commerce-driven, pragmatic approach towards Moscow.

In her first major interview since stepping down six months ago, Merkel said on Tuesday she had "nothing to apologise for" and that Moscow's Feb 24 invasion was "a turning point".

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak responded by criticising Merkel for deepening Europe's reliance on Russian energy.

"If Chancellor Merkel always knew that Russia was planning a war and Putin's goal is to destroy the EU, then why would (Germany) build the Nord Stream 2 (pipeline)," he wrote on Twitter, referring to the now-scuppered gas pipeline connecting Russia with Germany.

Podolyak said Merkel had "shoved" Europe towards increased dependency on Russian energy supplies and asked: "Why does Germany have to fix this mistake now?"

Germany became hugely reliant on Russian energy imports on Merkel's watch, and she long irked Western allies with her backing for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was to double Russian gas deliveries to Germany.

The project was shelved by current Chancellor Olaf Scholz in late February over Russia's aggression, and Europe's top economy is now joining EU partners in a race to wean itself off Russian oil, gas and coal.

In another major policy reversal, Scholz has pledged to invest €100 billion (S$148 billion) in modernising Germany's military, seen as chronically underfunded during the Merkel era.

The retired ex-chancellor said there was "no justification whatsoever" for the "brutal" and illegal war of aggression, adding that Putin had made "a big mistake".

"He wants to destroy Europe," she warned, during the interview on stage in a Berlin theatre.

"It's very important for the European Union to stick together now," she said, urging support for her successor's decisions. Strength was "the only language Putin understands", she added.

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