The co-leader of Germany’s Social Democrats called on former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to quit the party after he defended his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, exposing a rift at the heart of government in Berlin over the Ukraine crisis.
Schroeder has refused, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to step down from the posts with Russian energy companies from which he has earned millions of euros since leaving office in 2004.
In a weekend New York Times interview he said Germany had also benefited from his ties to Putin, though he said he would resign if Russia ever stopped sending Germany gas.
Saskia Esken, the party’s co-leader, said it was time to stop seeing Schroeder, who held the top job for five years, as a former chancellor and see him merely as a businessman.
“We called on Gerhard Schroeder to step down from Russian companies,” she told DLF public radio on Monday.
“Sadly he didn’t follow that advice. Schroeder has worked for years as a businessman, and we should stop seeing him as an elder statesman, as a former chancellor,” she said, adding that he should quit the party.