In further evidence that Germany is seeking to follow a path of rapprochement with Moscow, Merkel made clear she was prepared to push through a relaxation of EU sanctions against Russia almost immediately.
“As soon as we see progress in the Minsk agreement, we will loosen the sanctions,” Merkel told party colleagues at an event in northeastern Germany on Monday evening.
The Minsk agreement, signed in February 2015, aimed to put an end to fighting in eastern Ukraine by calling for the removal of heavy weaponry from the front line.
Merkel emphasized that putting an end to sanctions was in Germany’s interests as well as Russia’s.
In recent days, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also been vocal in his calls for detente with Moscow, urging a return to “a reliable understanding of common security”.
However, Merkel also voiced strong criticism of Russia on Monday evening, reminding her audience that the EU had imposed the sanctions due to Russia annexing the Crimea from Ukraine and sending its soldiers into eastern Ukraine.
She said she was aghast when she saw the first Russian tank cross over into Ukrainian territory.
“Now we are not talking about one tank, but about very, very many tanks.”