Remembering World War victims together

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Angela Merkel in Moscow Remembering World War victims together

The Chancellor has paid tribute to the victims of the Second World War with President Vladimir Putin. She said it was important to her to say to the people of Russia "that we bow down before the victims".

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel pay tribute to the victims.

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier the Chancellor and the Russian President pay tribute to the victims

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

With a view to Ukraine she added that history teaches us to resolve conflicts through diplomacy.

To mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Moscow to pay tribute to the millions of victims from what was then the Soviet Union.

"I have come to Moscow at a time when German-Russian relations are not easy," said Angela
Merkel following talks with President Vladimir Putin. It was important to her to remember with Vladimir Putin those who lost their lives in this war.

Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Earlier in the day Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin had each laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. "In this way I would like to say to the people of Russia, as German Chancellor I bow down before the millions of victims of this war, which was unleashed by National Socialist Germany," said the Chancellor.

Angela Merkel looked back at the indescribable suffering that Nazi Germany brought millions of people. Germany will always be acutely aware of the fact that it was the peoples of the Soviet Union, the soldiers of the Red Army, who lost the highest number of lives, she said. The war in eastern Europe was a brutal war against other races, a war of extermination.

Ukraine crisis a setback for cooperation

In view of these historical events, she is grateful that reconciliation has been possible between the two peoples, "and that Germans and Russians can together work for a better future. In recent years we have repeatedly aimed for greater cooperation in Europe."

This cooperation has, however, been seriously compromised by the "criminal and unlawful annexation of Crimea and the military hostilities in eastern Ukraine," said Angela Merkel. "It is serious because we see these acts as a violation of the very foundations on which our common European peace order is built," she explained.

Nevertheless, particularly at this time, she believes that the lessons history teaches us are vitally important. "We must do all we can to resolve conflicts, no matter how difficult they may be, peacefully through discussions, i.e. through diplomatic channels."

Implementation of the Minsk agreement

Angela Merkel pointed to the package of measures that Germany and France agreed with Ukraine and Russia in February, at a Normandy format meeting. It is intended to facilitate a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict.

Vladimir Putin and the Chancellor both praised the fact that four working groups have been set up to elaborate solutions to the key issues. The Chancellor also thanked the OSCE for performing vitally important work on the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

The objective of the Minsk agreement is "to restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine at the end of the day," said Angela Merkel unequivocally. "We want to continue this work together. It appears to be an arduous path." The German government will continue to play an active part in this process, assured the Chancellor.

Cooperation with Russia important

Angela Merkel also raised the issue of economic cooperation with Russia. In future the aim is to bring the economic areas of Russia and the European Union gradually closer to one another. "I believe that in a global world there are good reasons to work on this major project." German-Russian relations would fit well in this overall framework.

Finally, Angela Merkel made it quite plain how important cooperation with Russia is, also on international matters. She gave the examples of ending civil war in Syria and negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme. "The world really expects us to surmount all difficulties and my visit here today is designed to demonstrate the fact that we want to do this with Russia and not against Russia."

The Chancellor did not attend the official Russian victory parade on Saturday because of profound differences of opinion with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Nevertheless it was important to the Chancellor "to lay a wreath with the Russian President at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and to pay tribute to the millions of lives lost during the Second World War for which Germany is to blame," said Angela Merkel in her video podcast.