No apologies: Germany’s Merkel defends approach to Ukraine

Angela Merkel defended her approach to Ukraine and Russia during her 16 years as Germany's leader, saying Tuesday that a much criticized 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine bought Kiev precious time and she won't apologize for her diplomatic efforts.

In her first substantial comments since leaving office six months ago, Merkel said there was "no excuse" for Russia's "brutal" attack on Ukraine and it was "a big mistake on Russia's part."

Merkel, who dealt with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout her chancellorship, rejected a suggestion that she and others engaged in appeasement that ultimately enabled the invasion.

"I tried to work toward calamity being averted, and diplomacy was not wrong if it doesn't succeed," she said in an on-stage interview at a Berlin theater that was televised live. "I don't see that I should say now that it was wrong, and so I won't apologize."

"It is a matter of great sorrow that it didn't succeed, but I don't blame myself now for trying," Merkel said.

She defended the 2015 peace agreement that she and then-French President Francois Hollande brokered in Minsk, Belarus, aimed at easing fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Merkel conceded that it didn't fulfill all of Ukraine's interests and that few people stand by it now, with some saying it was badly negotiated.

"But at the time it brought calm and, for example, it gave Ukraine a great deal of time, seven years namely, to develop into what it is today," she said. If there had been no intervention at the time, she added, "Putin could have wrought gigantic damage in Ukraine."

She said that sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea in 2014 "could have been stronger,...

Continue reading on: