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Russia: Merkel, Putin carry on bilateral dialogue in Moscow


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met in Moscow, where the two leaders traded barbs about Russia's human rights record. They agreed, however, that bilateral trade was strong.

Merkel and Putin met in Moscow on Thursday for the 14th edition of an ongoing series of meetings known as the Petersburg Dialogue that dates back to 1998.

Under pressure from her parliament to criticize Putin's civil rights record, Merkel cut right to the chase.

"We are concerned about a number of recent laws that don't, as far as I can see, advance the right of people to freely organize," Merkel said at the Kremlin, referring to laws floated by Putin's party in parliament that could stifle dissent.

Merkel also raised the issue of the two remaining members of the band Pussy Riot who are serving sentences for a punk-protest carried out in a cathedral.

"That would also be cause for discussion in Germany if it were to take place in a church - no question," she said. "But does that earn someone two years in a labor camp?"

Putin claimed that the band members were anti-Semitic, something that Germany "couldn't support."

Strong trade ties

Despite differing views on some topics of discussion, Merkel and Putin generally appeared relaxed in their meeting, which also included German and Russian business delegates.

"We want Russia to be successful," Merkel said.

Germany receives 40 percent of its gas and 30 percent of its oil from Russia, while Russia benefits from German infrastructure and technology imports.

Putin said that some of the criticisms from Germany were a little misguided, given that Germany "is a long way from Russia," but he also spoke of the generally positive relationship between the two countries.

"Some disagreements might take place, yes," he said. "We argue, search for compromises. But there is certainly no gloomy atmosphere."

mz/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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