Jan 29 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to contacts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz though has no phone call scheduled with him, a Kremlin spokesman told the state RIA Novosti news agency on Sunday.
Germany, previously the West’s main holdout on providing modern battle tanks to Ukraine to help it fight off Russia’s invasion, said last week it would send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and also approve Leopard shipments by allied European countries. The announcement, followed shortly afterwards by a U.S. pledge of M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv, infuriated the Kremlin.
“For now, there are no agreed talks (with Scholz) in the schedule. Putin has been and remains open to contacts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by 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: “The onus is on Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine to end this horrendous, senseless war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives already.”
Spokespeople for Scholz could not be immediately reached for comment. He is currently on a visit to South America.
Putin and Scholz last spoke by phone in early December. The Russian leader said at the time the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and called on Berlin to rethink its approach.
Germany is the second largest donor of military hardware to Ukraine after the United States, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, ahead of other European powers such as France and Britain.
Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to fend off a hostile, encroaching West. Ukraine and its allies say the invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression.
Kyiv says peace talks are possible only if Russia stops attacking and withdraws all forces from Ukrainian soil.
(Reporting by Reuters Editing by Mark Heinrich)