German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said natural gas should never be used as a geopolitical weapon and backed extending an energy partnership deal with Ukraine once it expires in 2024.
Merkel made the remarks in Kyiv on August 22 at a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Merkel is making her last visit to Ukraine before she is due to step down after elections in Germany next month. Her visit to the Ukrainian capital comes two days after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Merkel has been criticized for backing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, that Kyiv, Washington, and others warn will not only strengthen Moscow’s energy hold on Europe, but cut Ukraine out of lucrative gas transit fees.
At the press conference, Zelenskiy said talks on extending the gas transit agreement with Russia have been vague. He said he wanted to understand what Ukraine can get after the agreement expires in 2024.
Merkel has been a key supporter of Kyiv since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and began actively supporting separatist formations in parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014. That conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Merkel said in a news conference following her meeting with Putin that she would continue "to work for the territorial integrity of Ukraine" until she steps down following elections in Germany in September.
However, Merkel has been criticized for her stance on Nord Stream 2, which will soon double Russian natural-gas supplies to Germany.
Berlin has raised the possibility of creating a mechanism to compensate Ukraine for lost revenue.
"You can call it a pragmatic approach," Zelenskiy said in an interview this week with several media outlets.
He called the German chancellor’s diplomacy a "very delicate balancing act," but he added that "in my opinion, this is too soft."
Ukraine on August 24 will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
The country will also host several European leaders on August 23 for a summit on Crimea and to discuss ways of having the peninsula returned to Ukraine, but Merkel is not planning to participate in the conference.
At the press conference in Kyiv on August 22, Merkel said Berlin considers Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea as illegal.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa