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

AFP
AFP - [email protected] • 22 Apr, 2022 Updated Fri 22 Apr 2022 14:34 CEST
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) gives a press statement at the Chancellery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AFP-POOL | Hannibal Hanschke

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.

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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AFP 2022/04/22 14:34

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