Germany’s Social Democrats move to expel Gerhard Schröder over Putin ties

Germany's ruling Social Democrats (SPD) launched proceedings Thursday that could see former chancellor Gerhard Schröder expelled from the party over his close ties to Vladimir Putin and Russian energy companies.

Gerhard Schröder Olaf Scholz
Gerhard Schröder takes part in an event at the launch of Olaf Scholz's biography, "The Way to Power" in December 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

The SPD’s Hanover branch opened a hearing to discuss more than a dozen motions from local and regional chapters against Schröder’s ongoing membership, with a decision expected in three weeks.

Schröder has “decided that his financial and personal dependence on Putin is more important than his commitment to the SPD or the legacy of his chancellorship,” senior party member Thomas Kutschaty told the Rheinische Post daily.

Schröder, German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as unjustified but has refused to turn his back on his friend in the Kremlin, becoming an embarrassment to the SPD.

He has also been widely criticised for holding a number of lucrative posts at Russian energy giants, and it was only after much public pressure that Schröder in May gave up his seat on the board of Russian energy group Rosneft.

He later also announced he would not be joining Gazprom’s supervisory board as initially planned.

Germany’s parliament in May removed some of the perks Schroeder was entitled to as an elder statesman, stripping him of an office and staff.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over links to Russia

Schröder, 78, has remained defiant and is expected to fight efforts to kick him out of the SPD.

“I will not give up my opportunities for dialogue with President Putin,” Schroeder recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

Legal experts say there are high hurdles for expelling members from the party, and Schroeder will be able to appeal any decision against him.

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Germany ready to take in Russian deserters, ministers say

Germany is ready to take in Russian deserters, ministers signalled Thursday, amid reports of people fleeing the partial mobilisation ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Germany ready to take in Russian deserters, ministers say

“Deserters threatened with serious repression can as a rule obtain international protection in Germany,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said, according to excerpts from an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

“Anyone who courageously opposes Putin’s regime and thereby falls into great danger, can file for asylum on grounds of political persecution,” she said.

Separately, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted using the hashtag “partial mobilisation” that “apparently, many Russians are leaving their homeland — anyone who hates Putin’s path and loves liberal democracy is welcome in Germany”.

Germany has taken in around a million Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, but also welcomed Russian dissidents.

Faeser said 438 Russian dissidents — many of them journalists — have benefited from an accelerated process to obtain protection in Germany.

She pointed out however that political asylum is not automatically granted but applicants would first be subject to security checks.

READ ALSO: Scholz calls Putin’s announcements ‘act of desperation’