Germany’s Schroeder loses office amid anger over Russia ties

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers agreed Thursday to strip former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of his office and staff after he maintained and defended his long-standing ties with Russia and its energy sector despite the invasion of Ukraine.

Sven Kindler, a financial policy spokesman for the Greens, one of the governing parties, tweeted that parliament’s budget committee approved a change to the rules that would leave Schroeder’s office “dormant.”

The move was expected after lawmakers with the governing coalition — which is led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, Schroeder’s party — on Wednesday proposed linking some of the privileges former chancellors enjoy to actual duties, rather than their status as ex-leaders.

To reduce the chances of a legal challenge, the proposal didn’t explicitly mention Schroeder’s ties to Russian companies or to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ex-chancellor still will be entitled to bodyguards and a pension.

Schroeder, 78, led Germany from 1998 to 2005. He has become increasingly isolated in recent months due to his work for state-controlled Russian energy companies.

He is chairman of the supervisory board of Russian state energy company Rosneft and also has been involved with the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline projects.

Earlier this year, several office staff quit and Schroeder faced a fresh wave of outrage from former political allies after The New York Times quoted him saying that a massacre in Bucha, a community outside Ukraine’s capital, “has to be investigated” but he didn’t think orders to kill Ukrainian civilians would have come from Putin, a longtime friend.

Saskia Esken, the co-leader of the Social Democrats, last month urged Schroeder to leave the party.

Scholz described Thursday’s decision as “logical.”

“I think this is the reaction that is right now, and I don’t consider further ones necessary at present,” he added. That was an allusion to a separate call Thursday by the European Parliament for European Union sanctions to be imposed on Schroeder.

“The very best thing would be for Gerhard Schroeder to resign from his posts” with the Russian energy industry, Scholz said at a news conference alongside his Dutch counterpart in The Hague.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner welcomed Thursday’s German parliament decision, tweeting that “a former chancellor who today lobbies openly for Putin’s criminal rule shouldn’t be provided with an office by taxpayers for this.” Lindner is a member of the pro-business Free Democrats.

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