Putin to defend crackdown on dissent with Merkel meeting

November 16, 2012 - 1:10:07 am

MOSCOW: The Kremlin denounced a rise in anti-Russian rhetoric in Germany yesterday before a visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel and made clear that Vladimir Putin would stand his ground if she lectures him on human rights.

Merkel is expected to carry out a request by Germany’s parliament to press Putin today over what critics say is a crackdown on dissent since he returned to the presidency in May.  

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov signalled that Putin would defend his position and, despite intensifying talk of a chill in relations, said that economic ties were strong enough to ensure Russia’s relationship with Berlin stays on track.

“We are well aware of the heightened anti-Russian rhetoric in Germany in recent weeks or even months. We are aware of the demands Mrs Merkel faces from Bundestag deputies and others to raise various human rights and democracy issues with Putin,”  Peskov told reporters.

“As always, President Putin will explain in detail whatever remains unclear and will ask his own questions,” he said.

Merkel, who will attend a conference before meeting Putin, has never enjoyed as strong a relationship with him as her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, but business and trade ties between their countries have remained close.  

Pressure has increased on her, however, to question Putin on human rights following the biggest protests against his rule since he first rose to power in 2000 and the introduction of laws which critics say are intended to smother the opposition.

The criticism of Putin, who served for five years as a KGB spy in Dresden, has fuelled talk of frosty relations between the two European powers, especially as Putin has bristled at what he regards as any attempt to teach him about democracy.  

Peskov put the increase in anti-Russian sentiment down to what he said was point-scoring at the start of campaigning for Germany’s federal election next year.   Reuters