Scholz urges Putin to withdraw troops for ‘diplomatic’ end to war

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday pressed Russia's President Vladimir Putin to seek a diplomatic solution to end his war in Ukraine, including troop withdrawals, Berlin said following a call between the two.

Ukrainian capital Kyiv in snow
Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, covered in snow. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Bernat Armangue

“The chancellor urged the Russian president to come as quickly as possible to a diplomatic solution including the withdrawal of Russian troops,” according to the German leader’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

During the one-hour call, Scholz “condemned in particular the Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and stressed Germany’s determination to support Ukraine in ensuring the defence capability against Russian aggression”.

On Russia’s end, Vladimir Putin told Scholz that Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure were “inevitable” and accused the West of pursuing “destructive” policies. 

“It was noted that the Russian Armed Forces had long refrained from precision missile strikes against certain targets on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the discussion. 

The leaders also discussed the issue of global food security, which is under pressure because of the war.

They also agreed to “remain in contact”, said Hebestreit.

Scholz and Putin have been in regular phone contact through the war.

The previous call between them took place in September and lasted 90 minutes, with Scholz then also urging Putin to “come to a diplomatic solution as possible, based on a ceasefire”.

‘Return to the pre-war peace order’

Despite his firm line on the war in Ukraine, the Chancellor drew sideways glances this week after telling the Berlin Security Conference there was a “willingness” to solve common security issues with Russia. 

“We can come back to a peace order that worked and make it safe again if there is a willingness in Russia to go back to this peace order,” Scholz said, according to reports by Times correspondent Oliver Moody. 

Scholz had prefaced his comments with a reference to Russia’s “imperialist” tendencies, which he said reflected the approach of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, “where a stronger country just thinks it can take the territory of a neighbour, understanding neighbours as just hinterland, and some place they can give rules to be followed.”

“That can never be accepted,” he added. 

He also blamed Russia for destroying the European peace order that countries had worked on “for decades”. 

Nevertheless, commentators accused the SPD politician of stubbornly sticking to Germany’s historical appeasement of Russia rather than recognising the realities of the present day. 

On Wednesday, German MPs also passed a motion to recognise the starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s under Russian dictator Joseph Stalin as ‘genocide’. 

Parliamentarians described the move as a “warning” to Russia as Ukraine faces a potential hunger crisis this winter due to Moscow’s invasion.

READ ALSO: Germany recognises Stalin famine in Ukraine as ‘genocide’

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Yulia Navalnaya votes at Russian embassy in Berlin

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was queuing to cast her ballot at the Russian embassy in Berlin on Sunday, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Yulia Navalnaya votes at Russian embassy in Berlin

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was queueing to cast her ballot at the Russian embassy in Berlin on Sunday, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Wearing a black jacket, Navalnaya received flowers from supporters and chatted with fellow voters in the long queue outside the embassy in the German capital.

Navalnaya had called on Russians to stage an election day protest against President Vladimir Putin by forming long queues outside voting stations.

‘Among voters who joined the snaking line in Berlin was Maria Katkova, 33, who told AFP that she was there “because I don’t want my vote to be stolen”.

“I want to be together with all these people here and feel like I’m not alone,” said Katkova, who had been in the queue for two hours.

Stanislav Vliasov, 33, a risk manager, said that he had come to vote because “it’s a good possibility to show a picture to all people around the world, to people in Russia… that people are against this situation… against the politics in Russia.

“People know there is a lot to do after today, the world has a lot to do to fight Putin’s regime,” he added.