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RUSSIA

Germany must take Russia’s Medvedev at his word

Despite lingering questions about Russian democracy, Germany must be willing to take president-elect Medvedev at his word, writes Werner Hoyer, the deputy chairman of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) parliamentary group.

The election of Dmitry Medvedev as the next Russian president is anything other than a surprise – just as is the fact that the vote failed to meet our legal and democratic standards. But Germany must still take the new president at his word. In the past he has spoken frequently about openness and reform, democracy and rule of law. His deeds will be measured accordingly.

In light of the many interests that Germany, the European Union, and the West share with Russia, stability and reliability are extremely important factors for our ties to Moscow. The list of irritations and obstacles to be overcome are long – whether Kosovo or Iran, as well as the perhaps most important question of how to increase mutual trust and pursue arms control.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be well advised to meet Putin’s successor as soon as possible. The Chancellor, whose relationship with Putin has appear increasingly strained, must quickly attempt to build a basis of trust with the new Russian president that can withstand differences of opinion.

For despite all of the problems and beyond outdated ideological mindsets, seen objectively Russia and Europe are compelled to work together to face common challenges.

Medvedev takes over an office from Putin that has never had more power. At the same time, the democratic opposition has been essentially neutralized – partially because personal vanities continue to hinder the unification of democratic forces.

But dismissing Medvedev as Putin’s “marionette” before he takes office would be a terrible mistake. The new president will have no other choice than to put his personal stamp on the office rather quickly, since the institutional strength of the presidency allows no other option. Moreover, Putin’s own résumé – he was once considered Yeltsin’s “crown prince” – is the best proof of how fast a so-called marionette can learn to stand on his own two feet.

Werner Hoyer is the deptuy chairman of the FDP’s parliamentary group and foreign policy expert for the party. Translation by The Local.

RUSSIA

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow

German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow, prosecutors said on Monday, in a case that risks further inflaming bilateral tensions.

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow
Vladimir Putin. Photo: dpa/AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., had been taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of “working for a Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest”.

Ilnur N. was employed until the time of his arrest as a research assistant for a natural sciences and technology department at the unnamed German university.

German investigators believe he met at least three times with a member of Russian intelligence between October 2020 and this month. On two occasions he allegedly “passed on information from the university’s domain”.

He is suspected of accepting cash in exchange for his services.

German authorities searched his home and workplace in the course of the arrest.

The suspect appeared before a judge on Saturday who remanded him in custody.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Neither the German nor the Russian government made any immediate comment on the case.

However Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Italy this month said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needed to
protect itself from Russian “interference”. 

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police while selling confidential military documents leaked from his computer to a Russian embassy official.

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The leaders of nine eastern European nations last month condemned what they termed Russian “aggressive acts” citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as “absurd” and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the scene of ongoing fighting between pro-Russia separatists and local forces.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks on its soil.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that completely paralysed the computer network of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week said Germany was expecting to be the target of Russian disinformation in the run-up to its general election in September, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

Russia denies being behind such activities.

Despite international criticism, Berlin has forged ahead with plans to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.

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