German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Russian President at his Sochi home on Tuesday in her first visit to the country since 2015. It does not appear that the two leaders were able to come to any agreements.
Germany has pressed Russia to honor The Minsk Agreement covering the Ukraine for some time. The thirteen point 2016 agreement called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, prisoner exchanges, and free elections. An estimated 8,000 people have died in the conflict since it began in 2014. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Russia denies any direct involvement in the Ukraine and blames escalations in the fighting on the Ukrainian government.
Merkel also voiced her displeasure of Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in spite of war crimes committed by the leader, including the use of chemical weapons on children. Putin has downplayed his influence over Assad and stated that he hopes a ceasefire can be reached.
Relationships between the two countries have been further strained by Russian interference in Western elections and disregard for human rights viewed as vital by many in the West. Homosexuals and Kremlin protestors have been especially victimized and the religious group Jehovah’s Witnesses banned within Russia. The International Observer recently covered that ban an in-depth article. Commenting on the criticism, President Putin only said, “Our law enforcement and judicial organs act within the framework of the laws that exist in Russia and will continue to act in that way, observing order and discipline.”
Ms. Merkel along with former United States President Barack Obama forged a formidable alliance against Vladimir Putin. The resolve of Germany and the United States has been put to the test by the election of Donald Trump in the United States and pending elections in Germany, where Ms. Merkel is not certain to win.