Jan 29 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to contacts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, but has not scheduled a phone call with him, a Kremlin spokesman told state news agency RIA Novosti on Sunday.
Germany, formerly the West’s main weapon in supplying Ukraine with modern main battle tanks to help it repel the Russian invasion, said last week it would send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev and also forward Leopard shipments through allied European countries would approve. The announcement, followed shortly afterwards by a US commitment of M1 Abrams tanks to Kiev, enraged the Kremlin.
“For now, no agreed talks (with Scholz) are scheduled. Putin was and remains open to contacts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti.
Scholz was quoted by the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel in an interview published on Sunday as saying: “I will also speak to Putin again – because it is necessary to speak.”
He added: “It is up to Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine to end this horrific, senseless war that has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Spokesmen for Scholz were not immediately available for comment. He is currently visiting South America.
Putin and Scholz last spoke by phone in early December. The Russian leader said at the time that the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and called on Berlin to reconsider its approach.
According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Germany is the second largest donor of military equipment to Ukraine after the United States, ahead of other European powers such as France and Britain.
Moscow calls his actions a “special military operation” to repel a hostile, advancing West. Ukraine and its allies say the invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression.
Kiev says peace talks are only possible if Russia stops attacking and withdraws all troops from Ukrainian territory.
Reporting by Reuters Edited by Mark Heinrich
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