Pressure mounts on ex-German chancellor Schröder over Russia ties

Pressure is growing inside Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) to expel their former leader and ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder over his apparent refusal to renounce his business ties with Russia.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a hearing in the Bundestag's Economics Committee on the now-shelved Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in July 2020.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a hearing in the Bundestag's Economics Committee on the now-shelved Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in July 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Schröder, who is a lobbyist for Russian gas and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparked fresh outrage following remarks in an interview with the New York Times published this weekend.

Unrepentant over his business links with Russia, he told the newspaper: “I don’t do mea culpa. It’s not my thing.”

SPD co-president Saskia Esken was asked in an interview with state radio whether Schröder should quit the party.

“I think he should,” she replied.

READ ALSO: Gerhard Schröder – the ex-German chancellor turned public pariah

The party was currently examining 14 motions to have its former leader expelled, she told journalists later.

The final decision would come down to the party’s arbitration body, she added.

But she also told journalists: “He makes his money working for Russian state businesses.

“Gerhard Schröder has for many years been a businessman, and we should stop seeing him as a former honourable leader, a former chancellor.”

Thomas Kutschaty, another senior party figure, was equally scathing.

“He has to choose,” he told Welt TV.

“Either he keeps supporting Putin, or he is a member of the Social Democrats, but the two are not compatible.”

Schröder has been under pressure for months now because of his close ties to Russian business and  Putin.

In his Times interview, he made it clear he had no intention of giving up his posts in Russian businesses and that he would only do so if Russia stopped delivering gas to Germany.

He also expressed scepticism over accusations that Putin had ordered the execution of civilians in Ukraine.

On Friday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Russia’s actions in Ukraine might amount to war crimes.

Schröder is president of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, the controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany which for the moment does not have an operating licence.

He also has a senior position with Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is in a muddle over Russia – and it only has itself to blame

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Russian gas transit halt in Ukraine hits key pipeline’s inflow in Germany

A halt on Russian gas flowing through a key transit hub in eastern Ukraine has cut inflows via a key pipeline into Germany by a quarter compared to a day ago, official data showed Wednesday.

Russian gas transit halt in Ukraine hits key pipeline's inflow in Germany

The German government in Berlin however said that overall supplies to Germany were assured, as the affected “volumes are currently being offset by higher flows from Norway and the Netherlands”.

The affected pipeline travels through the Czech Republic and Slovakia and enters Germany via Waidhaus in Bavaria.

Germany is highly dependent on Russia for its gas supplies, with Russian supplies making up 55 percent of its imports before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Berlin has been battling to cut its reliance since, but has rejected an immediate full embargo on Russian gas.

In its daily energy situation report, it said the current level of its gas stocks was “significantly higher than in the spring of 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2021”.

READ ALSO: What would happen if Germany stopped accepting Russian gas