Different accounts emerged from the hour-long phone conversation between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Vladimir Putin on Friday morning.
According to Scholz’s office, the German leader used the meeting to “pressure” the Russian president to enforce a ceasefire in Ukraine, according to a spokesman in Berlin.
Scholz had “pressured [Putin] to introduce a ceasefire as soon as possible, to improve the humanitarian situation and to make progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” the spokesperson said.
Without giving further details on progress, he added that the conversation had focused on the war and attempts to stop it.
In the Kremlin’s version of the conversation, published before Berlin’s statement, it was described as ‘tough but professional’, with Putin complaining about war crimes he says were committed by Ukraine’s military, referring to attacks he said took place in the eastern towns of Donetsk and Makiivka which left “many people dead”.
“These war crimes are being ignored by the West,” Putin said according to Russian news agency reports referring to the Kremlin. Putin reportedly told Scholz that the Russian military “does everything to avoid civilian casualties”.
According to the Kremlin account, Putin accused Ukraine of trying to “slow down” talks with Russia, and said the Kyiv government was making “unrealistic suggestions”. He added that the Russian leadership was “ready to seek solutions suited to their fundamental views”.
Scholz came under heavy criticism on Thursday after his government rejected requests from opposition figures to discuss the situation in Ukraine, following a moving speech to the Bundestag by Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In his 11-minute video-link address, the Ukrainian president accused Germany of paving the way for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, through its years-long strict observance of its trade relationship with Russia, in particular with regard to the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. He appealed to the Germans’ sense of historical responsibility by urging the government to do all it could to stop the war.
On Friday, Zelenskiy’s foreign policy adviser, Mychailo Podoliak, accused Scholz of “playing down” the war by repeatedly insisting that the conflict was best described as “Putin’s war”, not “the war”. of Russia”, because it was Putin who wanted it, not Russia. people.
Podliak said the distinction was flawed, with opinion polls showing a majority of the Russian population favoring war and, by extension, the killing of Ukrainians, he said.