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Expanding civil society exchange between Germany and Russia  Russian Federation

25.06.2018 - Article

Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, visited Moscow on 21 and 22 June. It was his first trip to the Russian capital.

Roth held talks with civil society, parliament and government representatives. To commemorate the 77th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth with pupils from the German School in Moscow
Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth with pupils from the German School in Moscow© AA

How can we pay appropriate tribute to the approximately 27 million victims of the brutal German campaign of annihilation in the former Soviet Union? This question played a central role in many of the talks with German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth in Moscow. Pupils from the German School in Moscow presented their project “Remembrance. Commemoration. Reconciliation”, which they are creating in partnership with a Russian and a German school. Its focus is on addressing the battle of Rzhev and documenting interviews with eyewitnesses.

Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier© AA

For Roth, the role of commemoration in Germany is also a priority: “The remembrance and commemoration of this brutal killing needs to be given more public attention in Germany. We lack an appropriate place in the centre of Berlin to commemorate the approximately 27 million victims of National Socialist terror in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and other former Soviet republics.”

The differing perceptions of history in Russia and Germany were one aspect of the discussion with representatives of civil society, such as Memorial and the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center. However, the conversations also revealed the great concern about the increasing restrictions on open and critical exchange in Russian society.

This concern is shared by LGBTI representatives, who told the German Minister of State for Europe about their work to promote LGBTI rights. “Respecting and protecting the rights and dignity of minorities ought to be a matter of course for state activity all over the world. I also made this clear in my talks with the Russian Government,” Roth declared.

Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth in conversation with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.
Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth in conversation with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.© AA

The urgent need for talks between Russia and Germany was also reflected in the constructive meeting between Minister of State Roth and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, which focused primarily on bilateral, European and transatlantic issues. Yet critical topics, such as the annexation of Crimea in violation of international law and human rights incidents, were not skirted around.

“We will not resolve our problems by talking about each other, but only by talking with each other. The meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Grushko has shown me that in spite of the controversial issues, there are numerous areas in which we can cooperate successfully,” Roth summed up after the talks.



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