Merkel, who left politics in December after 16 years at the helm of Europe’s top economy, said she was watching the “attack on the territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Ukraine “with great concern and sympathy”.
“Russia’s war of aggression marks a profound turning point in European history after the end of the Cold War,” she said in a statement.
Merkel said there was “no justification” for this “blatant violation of international law” which she “condemned in the strongest terms”.
She offered her “solidarity” to the people and government of Ukraine and her “full support” to her successor, Olaf Scholz, in his efforts with Western partners to “stop President (Vladimir) Putin as quickly as possible”.
Merkel’s decision to maintain close diplomatic and economic ties with Russia despite years of provocations has been criticised as “naive” in recent days as Putin has laid bare his intentions in Ukraine.
Scholz this week announced plans to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to bring Russian natural gas to Germany as a sanction against Moscow.
Merkel had long championed the project as crucial to Germany’s energy strategy as it phases out nuclear power and coal and gradually builds up its supply from renewables.
Her own predecessor as chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, has worked since leaving office in 2005 as a lobbyist for the Russian energy sector — a target of fierce criticism in Berlin.
Russian gas lobbyist & former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder calls for restraint in the use of sanctions against Russia, saying this could endanger a return to peace and dialogue. Really pic.twitter.com/ex1B1xV5lq
— Noah Barkin (@noahbarkin) February 24, 2022
He criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday as unjustified but called for maintaining “political, economic and civil society ties” with Moscow.