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Merkel and Putin hold talks in Moscow

The talks between Merkel and Putin came as the German Chancellor made her final official trip to Russia as she prepares to step down next month after nearly 16 years in office. Relations between Merkel and Putin, two of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, soured in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, drawing broad condemnation and sanctions from the West.

During the discussion German Chancellor demanded Putin to free Navalny. This topic led to the clash between the two leaders as per the media reports. Mr Navalny was arrested in January upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials reject the accusation.

Putin during the talk mentioned that Navalny has been punished for breaking the law. He stated that “He is convicted not of his political activity, but a criminal offence”.

The politician and anti-corruption activist, who is Mr Putin’s most determined political foe, received a 2 1/2-year prison sentence in February for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

Russian authorities have insisted that the doctors who treated Mr Navalny in Siberia before he was airlifted to Germany found no traces of poison and challenged the German officials to provide proof of his poisoning. They have denied and refused to open a full-fledged criminal inquiry, citing the lack of evidence that Mr Navalny was poisoned.

Russian Foreign Ministry has released a lengthy statement on Wednesday about the above case stating the case has indicated a planned provocation aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the global community and damaging its national interest. The Ministry has further accused Berlin of failing to provide evidence that would support their allegations. 

Later at the news conference, the leaders discussed the situation and take-over of Afghanistan, Libya and the Nord Stream 2 pipelines from Russia to Germany. As per reports, Putin called on to prevent the collapse of Afghanistan as the Taliban has taken over the country. Another topic was the pipeline which will connect the two countries and carry the natural gas. In the earlier few months, the US and few European countries showed their disinterest in the project but the US and Germany announced a deal for the completion of the project last month. According to the reports by the critics, the pipeline will put European energy security in danger and increase Russia’s influence in the area. 

Putin during the talk’s declared that only 15 kilometres of the construction is left and will be finished soon. He also said Russia planned to fully comply with its obligations on gas transit via Ukraine. But as the talks finished the US announced new sanctions on one Russian vessel and two Russian individuals involved in Nord Stream 2 making the future of the relationship more tensed.