German ex-leader Schroeder criticises EU, Russia sanctions
German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday called for an end to spiralling sanctions between the EU and Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
"The mutual sanctions hurt both sides immensely," said the former centre-left leader at a German-Russian business forum.
"That is why I would urge that both Russian and European policy-makers must find a way out of the spiral of increasingly fierce economic sanctions."
In the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War, Western powers accuse Putin's Russia of fuelling a rebellion by pro-Moscow separatists in its former Soviet satellite Ukraine, whose government in Kiev is seeking closer ties with the EU.
Schroeder's comments came two days after his successor, Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that amid continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, "there is currently no way to remove the existing sanctions".
Schroeder said despite the standoff, Moscow must not be isolated, speaking at the "Russia Day" event in the eastern German city of Rostock.
"There can only be peace and stability on our continent if there is a security partnership with Russia."
Schroeder has sparked anger in Germany for his unwavering loyalty to Putin, whom he has described in the past as a "flawless democrat".
The German ex-chancellor, who held the post from 1998 to 2005, heads the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream which runs a pipeline that carries Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
Schroeder said in his speech that he always seeks to understand Russia, its people and its political leadership.
"I'm not ashamed of that -- on the contrary, I am proud of it," he said.
The Russian ambassador to Germany, Vladimir M. Grinin, said that the mutual sanctions could cut EU-Russia trade by 150 billion euros ($190 billion) a year and asked: "Do we really want this?"
© 2014 AFP