Merkel to discuss election concerns with Russia

A029766710.jpgBERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss German concerns about Russia’s presidential vote during talks on Saturday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his newly elected successor Dmitry Medvedev.

Merkel is the first foreign leader to visit Moscow since Medvedev was elected to replace Putin in a Sunday vote that was criticized as neither free nor fair by observers and opposition groups.

Medvedev is due to take over at the Kremlin in May, with Putin expected to become prime minister.

“The Chancellor will surely raise the topic of (Russia’s) domestic situation after the election but also the conduct of the election which we viewed critically for a number of reasons and which we have also spoken openly about,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a regular news conference.

Wilhelm said Merkel wanted to get an impression from her visit of how Russian politics would be run in the future amid uncertainty over how Medvedev and Putin will share out responsibilities.

Merkel is due to hold talks with Putin, hold a joint news conference with him, and then meet separately with Medvedev before returning to Berlin on Saturday evening.

“The usual range of bilateral and international themes – the situation in the Middle East, in Kosovo and in Iran — will play an important role in both sets of talks,” Wilhelm said.

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