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UKRAINE

Merkel defends 2008 decision to block Ukraine from NATO

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday defended her 2008 decision to block Ukraine from immediately joining NATO, rejecting President Volodymyr Zelensky's criticism as Russia's invasion clouds her 16-year legacy.

Angela Merkel (CDU) attends a vote to elect the new German President in Feburary in Berlin
Angela Merkel (CDU) attends a vote to elect the new German President in Feburary in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

Zelensky in a night-late address had described as a “miscalculation” a Franco-German-led decision at the NATO summit in Bucharest to not admit his country to the alliance despite a push from the United States.

“I invite Ms Merkel and Mr (Nicolas) Sarkozy to visit Bucha and see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years,” he said, referring to the alleged atrocities against Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops that world powers have described as “war crimes”.

The Ukrainian president also accused the European leaders of seeking to appease Russia with their stance then.

But Merkel in a short statement issued by her spokeswoman said she “stands by her decisions in relation to the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest”.

“In view of the atrocities uncovered in Bucha and other places in Ukraine, all efforts by the government and the international community to stand by Ukraine’s side and to bring an end to Russia’s barbarism and war against Ukraine have the former chancellor’s full support,” added the spokeswoman.

Germany had deemed it too early for Ukraine to join NATO in 2008 because it found that the political conditions were not met at that point.

Merkel, who retired from politics late last year after four consecutive terms in power, had once been hailed as the leader of the free world.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has exposed flaws in her legacy, with critics saying she left Germany and Europe vulnerable with her detente policy towards the Kremlin leader.

Under particular scrutiny is Germany’s reliance on Russian energy, which made up 36 percent of its gas imports in 2014 but which rose to 55 percent by the time of the February 24 invasion.

The dependence on Russian power has left Berlin saying it is unable to follow a call by the US and other allies to impose a full energy embargo on Moscow.

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ENERGY

German energy firm RWE takes Gazprom to court over supply halts

German's RWE said Tuesday it is taking legal action against Russia's Gazprom over halted gas supplies, the latest German company to do so since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

German energy firm RWE takes Gazprom to court over supply halts

Following the invasion, Gazprom steadily dwindled pipeline supplies to Germany in apparent retaliation for Western sanctions on Russia, sending energy prices soaring.

Last week, German energy giant Uniper said it was seeking damages from Gazprom at an international tribunal, as the Russian company’s failure to deliver gas had cost them billions of euros.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Uniper takes Gazprom to court over halted gas supplies

An RWE spokeswoman confirmed to AFP the company had also launched action, but declined to give further details.

Gazprom’s failure to deliver promised supplies has meant that German companies, long heavily reliant on Russian energy, had to buy gas on world markets at far higher prices.

Financial daily Handelsblatt reported that the costs incurred by RWE were likely lower, at around €1 billion, than those faced by Uniper.

Uniper had far larger contracts, and has put its losses from the supply halts at €11.6 billion. Gazprom has rejected Uniper’s claims.

The company, Germany’s biggest gas importer, has agreed a deal to be nationalised after Russia’s drastic reduction in supplies pushed it to the brink of bankruptcy.

READ ALSO: How Germany became ensnared by Russian gas

It reported a €40 billion net loss for the first nine months of the
year, one of the biggest losses in German corporate history.

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