Angela Merkel: I was too weak to influence Putin in run-up to Ukraine invasion

G20 meeting: Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel in 2017  (AP)
G20 meeting: Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel in 2017 (AP)

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her policy towards Russia before its invasion of Ukraine, saying she had run out of power to influence Vladimir Putin.

Mrs Merkel said she had attempted European talks with Putin and France’s Emmanuel Macron, but did not succeed.

“But I didn’t have the power to get my way," she told German news magazine Der Spiegel. “Really everyone knew: in autumn she’ll be gone.”

Mrs Merkel left office in December last year after four successive terms as chancellor.

She went to Moscow for a final visit in August 2021, and told the publication “the feeling was very clear: ‘In terms of power politics you’re finished’”.

For the last meeting, Putin brought along his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, she said, saying it was notable as they had previously met one-on-one.

“For Putin, only power counts. He also brought Lavrov with him on this last visit, otherwise we often met in private”.

Critics of Mrs Merkel have argued the German government should have taken a tougher stance on Russia in light of the invasion of Ukraine but did not do so because of the country’s reliance on Russian gas.

She told the magazine she believed the Minsk agreements, which she backed, gave Ukraine more time to prepare itself and better defend itself against Russian forces.

The deal agreed a ceasefire after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

Mrs Merkel also said she did not regret standing down, saying “someone new had to do it” as her Government “hadn’t gotten a millimetre further” with key domestic and foreign policy priorities.

Speaking earlier this week, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson accused the German government of wanting Ukraine to quickly “fold” when the invasion started. This occurred after Mrs Merkel stepped down.

In response, a German government spokesperson said Mr Johnson “always has a unique relationship with the truth”.