The German government has noted the speech given one day earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin, said government spokesperson Steffen Seibert at the government press conference. It addressed the Russian people and would not therefore be commented in detail, he added.
Clear position on the Crimea crisis
In response to President Putin’s assertion that Crimea for Russians was like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Steffen Seibert made it quite clear that this "elevation to a religious status" can in no way be accepted as justification for Russia’s violation of international law with the illegal annexation of Crimea. "President Putin must also be aware that Crimea has for centuries been home to a great variety of peoples who subscribe to different religions."
Steffen Seibert pointed out that the German government has stated its "clear position on every aspect of the Ukraine crisis and the conflict with Russia" for months. From this it is quite plain "that our policy is not directed against Russia." Rather, it aims "to call a violation of international law clearly by name and to help find a diplomatic solution to this conflict."
Interest in partnership with Russia
The government spokesperson stressed that there are ongoing contacts at different levels between the German and the Russian governments. This includes in no small way contacts between the Chancellor and President Putin, and contacts between the two ministers of foreign affairs, both face to face and by telephone. "A diplomatic solution is most likely to emerge from talks of this sort. We are working in this direction."
Germany has an interest in Russia being a good partner for us and for Europe, said Steffen Seibert. "And we want to be a good partner for Russia." It is patently clear that Germany has no interest in weakening Russia, he explained. "But, we are also interested in ensuring that the fundamental principles of Europe’s order based on peace are respected by all." Russia failed to do so in the case of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, underlined the spokesperson.
The deputy spokesperson of the Federal Foreign Office, Sewsan Chebli, reminded her audience in this context of a statement made by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to representatives of the business community. "It is not the aim of our sanctions to bring Russia’s economy to its knees. That would be extremely dangerous. A destabilised or collapsing Russia would be a far greater threat to itself and others."
The many and varied efforts over recent months have underlined the need to adopt a two-track approach: exerting political pressure in response to the unlawful annexation of Crimea on the one hand, while demonstrating the will to keep open channels for communication on the other.
The Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea has been part of several different nations in the course of its history. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became the independent state of Ukraine on 24 August 1991 within its existing borders.
For centuries the population has consisted of a variety of groups with very different national, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They include Russians, Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Armenians, Greeks and Germans. There are Orthodox Christians of a wide range of persuasions, Muslims, Jews and other religious groups.
Following a referendum on the future status of Crimea held under dubious conditions on 16 March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and integrated it into the Russian Federation.