* Merkel to visit Putin in Moscow on Nov. 16
* German MPs adopt motion criticising Russia
* Lawmakers concerned Putin critics being cowed
By Alexandra Hudson
BERLIN, Nov 9 German lawmakers expressed alarm
on Friday at the state of human rights in Russia since Vladimir
Putin returned to the Kremlin in May and urged Chancellor Angela
Merkel to press Moscow on its treatment of critics when she
visits next week.
A parliamentary motion, written by Merkel's centre-right
coalition parties, asks the German government to campaign for
greater democracy and rule of law in Russia, as well as seeking
just treatment for anti-Putin campaigners such as jailed members
of the punk group Pussy Riot.
Although the motion is non-binding it increases the pressure
on Merkel to take a tougher stand on Russia - which has close
energy and trade ties with Germany - although this could strain
her relations with Putin, which have never been warm.
"Russia has taken legislative and judicial measures since
May 7 aiming to control active citizens, criminalise critical
engagement and create a confrontational course with government
critics," Andreas Schockenhoff, a lawmaker from Merkel's
Christian Democrats, told parliament.
Putin was sworn in as president on May 7, returning to a
post he had held from 2000-2008 after serving four years as
prime minister. Since then he has clamped down on dissent.
"When... democratic standards are reversed, rule of law is
restricted and repressive tendencies are accentuated, we can't
stand by indifferently. It fills us with deep concern," said
Schockenhoff, the government's co-ordinator for Russian and
German civil ties. However, he said that far from isolating
Moscow, Germany wanted to strengthen relations.
Merkel will hold talks with Putin on Nov. 16, before a
larger group of Russian and German ministers discuss energy and
business ties. Germany is a major exporter to Russia and depends
on Russian oil and gas for a large part of its energy needs.
Merkel will therefore be wary of alienating a man who
bristles at being lectured from abroad.
Her visit to Russia coincides with the end of the Petersburg
Dialogue, an annual conference in which German and Russian
business people, lawmakers and civil organisations discuss the
state of their relations and areas for development.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has already hit out at
Schockenhoff, saying it refuses to recognise him as a
representative of the German government. Schockenhoff is due to
chair discussions on civil society at the Petersburg Dialogue.
Schockenhoff told Reuters this week the motion was not a
form of meddling but rather showed German lawmakers wanting to
encourage what he described as a very lively discussion taking
place in Russia itself.
Berlin has grown increasingly disappointed with Russia's
course under Putin and his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev, who is
now prime minister.
By contrast, Merkel's predecessor, Social Democrat Gerhard
Schroeder, cultivated a hearty rapport with Putin, referring to
him as a "flawless democrat".
Schroeder now works as chairman of Russian gas producer
Gazprom's Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. He
has adopted two children from Russia.