Schroeder blames EU for Ukraine crisis

Germany’S former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has blamed European Union policy for the current situation in Ukraine and urged the West to stop focusing on new sanctions against Russia.In Schroeder’s opinion, the EU’s fundamental mistake -that subsequently led to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine – was its association policy, he said in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag published on Sunday.

Brussels “ignored Ukraine’s deep cultural division between traditionally pro-European western regions and Russia-leaning regions in the east”, the former chancellor said.

Kiev, however, had to pick either an association with the EU or a Customs Union with Russia, Schroeder said. He suggested that it could have been more reasonable if the former Soviet republic was offered an alternative when it could do both.

Initially, protests in Ukraine began in November, after President Viktor Yanukovich put on hold the signing of the association agreement with the EU, because, as he explained, at that time it would be against national interests.

The decision sparked months of fierce protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square which ended with a February coup and the ouster of Yanukovich. Since then, the epicentre of bloody unrest has moved to eastern regions where many oppose the new Kiev government. The republic of Crimea decided to rejoin Russia.

Schroeder admitted that Crimea joining Russia might be controversial in terms of international law, but that had already happened.

Last week, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened Russia with new sanctions if Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election did not go ahead as planned.

Schroeder believes, however, that sanctions and isolation would bring no result. Dialogue and respect of mutual interests could pave the way to a solution, he said.

“One should be speaking less about sanctions right now but instead about Russia’s security interests,” Schroeder stated, adding that Ukraine’s membership of NATO would not be acceptable for Moscow. “I keep hearing that the West ‘has to isolate Russia and Putin’.”

In April, the former chancellor came under fire from the media as photos were published of him hugging Russian President Vladmir Putin in St Petersburg where he was reportedly celebrating his 70th birthday.

Schroeder’s spokesperson confirmed on April 29 that he was in the Russian northern capital for a shareholders’ meeting of Nord Stream AG, the Russian-German pipeline joint venture that he chairs.

In response to the media attacks, the ex-chancellor pointed out that Putin “is not a persona non-grata”.

Speaking about the warm hug with Putin, Schroeder said he and the Russian president have been greeting each other that way for more than 14 years and he was not going to change that even in difficult times.

“I was really pleased he was able to come, because I knew there would be a chance to talk,” he told Welt am Sonntag. He said they talked about Ukraine. “And as far as the situation with the OSCE observers goes, it led to a successful result. I used the chance to ask president Putin to help free the hostages.” – RT.

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