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Putin ‘may join future Ukraine talks’: Germany

Germany said on Wednesday it could not rule out Russian President Vladimir Putin would take part in a future round of talks over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine after speculation that Western leaders were snubbing him.

Putin 'may join future Ukraine talks': Germany
The Russian President is currently attending to pressing engagements at the bottom of the sea. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting talks with France's President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko on Monday, and analysts said the conspicuous absence of Putin underlined that relations were deteriorating as new violence flares in eastern Ukraine.

The four leaders last met in Minsk in February when a truce deal was signed, but they have also regularly held telephone conversations over the conflict.

Merkel's spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said on Wednesday that although Putin would not join the huddle in Berlin, it was possible that the Russian strongman could attend future talks.

“I cannot rule out that such a meeting would be held but I cannot confirm it,” Wirtz told reporters.

Violence in eastern Ukraine this week has sparked a new diplomatic flareup between Moscow – accused by the West of aiding and abetting Ukraine's pro-Russia rebels – and Western powers which want to prop up Kiev's new pro-European leaders against what they view as Russian aggression.

Both Kiev and rebels controlling parts of Ukraine's industrial east reported the deaths of at least 10 soldiers and civilians on Monday in the worst bloodshed in over a month.

SEE ALSO: Ukraine again 'explosive', Germany warns

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UKRAINE

Scholz rejects ‘slanderous’ criticism of his party’s Russia policy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday hit back against accusations his centre-left Social Democrats have been too lenient towards Russia, as critics accuse Berlin of dragging its feet on deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Scholz rejects 'slanderous' criticism of his party's Russia policy

Opponents have confronted his Social Democratic Party (SPD) with a “distorted and slanderous depiction” of its Russia policy since the Second World War, Scholz said in an interview with German weekly Spiegel.

“That annoys me,” he said, adding that the SPD was “bound into the Western and transatlantic alliance”.

Germany said Thursday it had reached an agreement with eastern European partners to supply Ukraine with a new batch of heavy weapons “in the next few days”.

READ ALSO: ‘Too little, too late’: Scholz under fire for inaction on Ukraine

Germany has come under fire for refusing to directly send heavy weapons to Ukraine, even as allies such as the United States, Britain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands up their deliveries.

Much of the criticism has been directed at Scholz, who has faced pressure even from his two junior coalition partners to take tougher action.

But the government has said that after decades of chronic underinvestment, the German army, called the Bundeswehr, is simply not in a position to send the weapons Ukraine wants.

The potential to send arms to Ukraine from the stocks of the Bundeswehr had been “largely exhausted”, Scholz said in the interview.

“What is still available will absolutely still be delivered,” Scholz said, naming anti-tank weapons and artillery munitions.

Other senior SPD members have faced mounting scrutiny since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who is a lobbyist for Russian gas and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

READ ALSO: Scholz ‘irritated’ by Kyiv’s snub to German president

And German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently said his offer to travel to Ukraine in a show of solidarity had been rejected by Kyiv.

Steinmeier, a former SPD foreign minister, for years advocated a policy of detente towards Moscow with a strong focus on commercial ties.

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