Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder confirmed he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.
The controversial former Social Democrat leader, who maintains personal ties to Putin and has sat on the boards of Russian energy companies, has come under fire for his refusal to condemn Putin and for traveling to Moscow in March shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Schröder told a reporter in Moscow last week that he was there “on holiday,” but later confirmed he had met with the Russian president.
In an interview with German outlet Stern, published Wednesday, the former chancellor made renewed calls for negotiations with Putin, saying: “The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated settlement.”
He suggested the deal brokered by the U.N. and Turkey to reopen Black Sea shipping routes could become the basis for a cease-fire agreement and said both sides would have the make concessions to end the war — a comment that’s likely to spark fury in Kyiv.
He also urged the German government to reconsider its position on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Berlin halted the undersea pipeline in late February citing Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
“If you don’t want to use Nord Stream 2, you have to bear the consequences. And they will be huge in Germany, too,” he told Stern. “If things get really tight, there is this pipeline, and with both Nord Stream pipelines there would be no supply problem for German industry and German households.”
His comments come as the EU scrambles to cut its dependence on Russian energy imports and tamp down gas demand ahead of winter amid the looming energy crunch sparked by the war.
Imports on the older Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream pipeline fell to just 20 percent of capacity last week, a drop Russia’s Gazprom blamed on the delayed return of a gas turbine for a compressor station but that German and EU officials said was politically motivated.
Schröder has faced strong blowback for his continued ties with Russia. The German parliament in May stripped Schröder of some of his allowances as a former chancellor, including his office space and staff. He also faces fierce criticism from fellow Social Democrats and a party committee is to decide on his potential expulsion from the party on Monday.