Thursday, May 26, 2016


Transmission

Merkel's Remark On 'Criminal' Annexation Omitted In Russian Translation

Lost in translation? German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) gestures as Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the pair's joint press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 10.
Lost in translation? German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) gestures as Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the pair's joint press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 10.

Since the Ukraine crisis erupted last year, Western leaders have consistently accused the Kremlin of manipulating media coverage, fudging facts, or concocting outright fabrications to deny its role in the conflict.

Now, an official interpreter at a Kremlin press conference has omitted a top Western leader's stinging criticism of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March 2014.

Standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a May 10 press conference in Moscow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear her views of the Kremlin's seizure of Crimea.

"We achieved cooperation between NATO and Russia," Merkel said. "Due to the criminal and illegal, under international law, annexation of Crimea and the military conflicts in eastern Ukraine, this cooperation has suffered a serious setback."
 
The word "criminal," however, was omitted in real-time by the Russian-language interpreter at the press conference. Those listening exclusively to the interpreter were given the impression that Merkel considers the takeover of Crimea only a "violation of international law."

It is unclear whether the interpreter made a conscious call to soft-pedal Merkel's rebuke, or simply missed the word.

But in any case, her version of the German chancellor's words is the one posted on the Kremlin website and enshrined in the Russian government's official transcript of the events. 

The German-language transcript published by Merkel's office includes the chancellor's reference to the "criminal" annexation" of Crimea. 

One person who certainly would have understood the German word for "criminal" used by Merkel – "verbrecherisch" -- is Putin himself. The Russian leader, who was stationed in Dresden with the Soviet KGB in the 1980s, is a fluent German speaker and in the past has spoken with Merkel in her native language.

Whether he heard the word might depend on what ear Putin was listening with. He sported an earpiece on his left ear, presumably to listen to the Russian-language interpreter. His right ear -- the one closest to Merkel -- was free of electronic accoutrements.

-- Carl Schreck

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: From Moscow from: Moscow
May 12, 2015 14:54
It does not really matter what frau Merkel said - what comes in the right Putin's ear, immediately comes out from the left one, if he would not not like it.

by: Mamuka
May 12, 2015 15:09
But was not Herr Komissar Putin stationed in the DDR as a KGBchik? I'm sure he understood, nicht war.

by: Larry Allen from: Arizona
May 12, 2015 20:28
My God!! The diplomatic slip up by Chancellor Merkel. How could she accuse Russians of anything criminal with out rock solid proofs ??
In Response

by: JOE BODIA from: Odessa
May 23, 2015 16:40
"How could she accuse Russians of anything criminal with out rock solid proofs ??" << You really think there is no evidence that Russia annexed Krym or have had their active duty soldiers REPEATEDLY captured in Donbas?
In Response

by: Andrei Sokolov from: Russia
June 04, 2015 16:42
If you read carefully, you will no doubt notice that the use of the adjective "criminal" by Merkel referred to the "annexation" of Crimea only. In truth Crimea was taken over, not literally "annexed" by Russia, after it claimed independence from Kiev. Whether the takeover was impeccably legal, or even criminal, is another question. In Merkel's view (just as in yours, it seems), it was, but, fortunately, she does not have a monopoly on absolute truth, and would have done better without voicing this (presumably Germany's) opinion on that specific occasion.

by: Lilianna from: USA
May 12, 2015 21:52
it rarely matters what anyone says, the official party line, based on what Putin wants the world to believe will become carved in stone. I do think Angela Merkel deserves credit for speaking her mind. She is constantly represented as 'soft on Russia'. Perhaps defective translation has been at work long before this. Perhaps, she has also finally decided it's time to take of the gloves when it comes to Russian aggression. Let us hope that accurate translations become available to the public more often than Kremlin approved translations.

by: Bill Webb from: Phyoenix Arizona USA
May 13, 2015 09:38
They both understood the particularly harsh characterization of Russia's actions. Merkel and Putin are fluent in both Russian and German. She laid it on him.

by: Andrei Sokolov from: Russia
May 13, 2015 22:42
I don’t think anyone might have serious doubts as to whether the use of the adjective “criminal” by the Chancellor in relation to the annexation of the Crimea by Russia was impromptu or not. Most definitely, this adjective, intended to make a bright accent in Merkel’s speech, was carefully prepared and inserted in the message well ahead of the press conference. And of course, aware in advance that interpreting from German into Russian at the Kremlin meeting would be provided by the host party, Merkel’s speechwriters and consultants certainly expected this spiteful word to be omitted in the Russian version of the German leader’s speech – only to have this “scornful” fact trumpeted around by biased mass media afterwards. And the expectation proved to be absolutely correct – the word was, indeed, omitted by the interpreters. What’s more, such omissions are, in actual fact, often justified in diplomatic communication in order to soften harsh or awkward statements. In other words, it was essentially a small linguistic provocation on Merkel’s part. As to the use of the word “criminal” in politics in general, I don’t really think there is room for this. For example, the tapping of Merkel’s telephone calls by the US National Security Agency was, in fact, clearly criminal, but she somehow never said that. Not to mention the criminal killing of thousands and the destruction of countless homes by the Kiev regime during the last year. But, quite probably, Ms Merkel is not informed well enough to judge about the latter “transgressions”. In that case her restrained assessment of Kiev’s deeds is fully understandable.

by: Zina Sonij from: United states
May 14, 2015 04:23
President Putin is full of respect and diplomacy, as clearly he understood The German word , but he doesn't need to defend himself or his government policy as we all know that there is a lot of things done in the world that doesn't how by the international laws but when it comes to Russia everyone takes it to the extreme, and having all the killings and the Ukrianian crisis is neither good for Russia or Ukrian itself it made the country go ages backward on the civilization scale

by: Jack from: US
May 14, 2015 14:23
did Merkel talk about illegal carving out of Kosovo from Serbia by NATO and handing Kosovo over to Muslim terrorists from so-called Kosovo Liberation Army? How much credibility Merkel and her malaka masters from Washington have?
In Response

by: Matt from: London
May 19, 2015 12:15
Yes you are obviously from the U.S. "Jack" definitely not in Moscow....idiot
In Response

by: Barry Fay from: Berlin Germany
May 20, 2015 17:40
Well said, Jack! The first intelligent response turned out to be by a Russian (Sokolov) so I had given up hope that any Westerners would be able to see past the blatant propaganda and realize that the "aggressors" in Ukraine, as in Iraq, Syria, and myriad other places resisting the Empire, is the USA. The name "Radio Free Europe" now sounds downright Orwellian!

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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