Thursday 17 October 2019

Block Russian ships from EU and US ports - Merkel's heir

A Ukrainian national guard soldier stands at the checkpoint in Berdyansk, on the south coast of Azov sea, eastern Ukraine. Photo: AP
A Ukrainian national guard soldier stands at the checkpoint in Berdyansk, on the south coast of Azov sea, eastern Ukraine. Photo: AP

Andreas Rinke

The European Union and the United States should consider banning from their ports Russian ships originating from the Sea of Azov after Russia captured three Ukrainian vessels there, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's protégé said yesterday.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is leading the race to succeed Ms Merkel as leader of her ruling conservatives, also said Germany must be ready to take more responsibility in foreign policy and to spend more on defence.

Russia seized the Ukrainian vessels and their crews on Sunday near Crimea, the Ukrainian region which Moscow annexed in 2014, over what it said was their illegal entry into Russian waters, which Ukraine denies.

"If it's confirmed that the aggression came from Russia ...then I think there must be a clear answer," Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer told Reuters in a television interview.

"One answer might be, for example, to stop Russian ships coming from the region - from the Sea of Azov - from entering European or US ports until this situation with Ukraine is resolved," she said.

The comments from Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer (56) mark a tougher tone than the posture adopted by Ms Merkel, who has called for de-escalation and dialogue.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, sometimes referred to as AKK or "mini Merkel", is locked in a close race for the leadership of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with Friedrich Merz, a long-time Merkel rival who promises more radical change.

Polls show she is more popular with CDU members and voters at large. The winner, to be decided in a vote by 1,001 delegates at a party congress on December 7-8, will take pole position in the race to succeed Ms Merkel as chancellor.

On foreign and defence policy, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany must be ready to do more.

"Europe - and in particular Germany - must assume more responsibility," Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

"We must be ready to take on this responsibility and that has consequences domestically," she added.

Irish Independent

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