BERLIN, April 29 The German government distanced
itself from ex Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday after
pictures depicting him in an embrace with Russian President
Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Monday evening were
published in German media.
Schroeder's office had no immediate comment on the pictures,
which according to the media reports were taken outside the
Yusupov Palace where Schroeder was attending a celebration in
honour of his 70th birthday on April 7.
"He does not represent the German government," said a senior
German government official when asked about the pictures of
Schroeder's meeting with Putin. "It should be clear to everyone
that Mr. Schroeder left active politics some time ago."
Schroeder, chancellor from 1998-2005, has come under fire
before for his close relations with Putin. Schroeder became the
board chairman of a German-Russian pipeline joint venture with
gas monopoly Gazprom Nord Stream after leaving office.
Publication of the picture of Schroeder in a warm embrace
with Putin comes at a time of high tension between the West and
Russia and underscore Germany's ambivalence about new sanctions
on Russia. Germany relies on Russia for natural gas supplies.
(Reporting by Noah Barkin; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing
by Stephen Brown)