In an interview with the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, 83-year-old former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said the crisis in Ukraine could lead to large-scale war in Europe or even a nuclear war. "We won't survive if someone loses their nerves in the current tension."
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate decried the "loss of trust" between Russia and the West as "catastrophic," and said ties must be "defrosted."
Gorbachev accused the West and NATO of destroying the structure of European security by expanding its alliance. "No head of the Kremlin can ignore such a thing," he said, adding that the US was unfortunately starting to establish a "mega empire."
The man seen as a key player in the reunification of former East and West Germany in 1990 also accused Germany of interfering in Ukraine's crisis, saying, "The new Germany wants its hands in every pie. There seems to be a lot of people who want to be involved in a new division of Europe.
"Germany has already tried to expand its influence of power towards the East - in World War II. Does it really need another lesson?"
He said Western attempts to disempower Russian President Vladimir Putin and destabilize Russia were "very stupid and extremely dangerous."
He defended the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula last year, but criticized the Russian leader's authoritarian style of leadership. He said Russia needed free elections and "the participation of the people in free elections.
"It is simply not acceptable when someone such as the anti-corruption blogger and politician Alexei Navalny is under house arrest for speaking out."
Gorbachev has warned of a nuclear war on a number of occasions in recent months. In an article for the Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published on December 11, he said: "The situation in Europe and the world is extremely alarming … the result of the events that took place in the last months is a catastrophic loss of trust in international relation," which could lead to war.
He urged Russia and the US as well as Russia and the EU to hold talks "without preconditions" and without fear of "losing face."
"We must think of the future," the former leader said.
On Monday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are set to meet in Berlin to launch another attempt to break the deadlock in the Ukraine conflict.
The ministers are expected to discuss the possibility of a summit of the four countries' leaders in Kazakhstan, which Ukraine had suggested take place on January 15.
Regarding the fragile four-month-old ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, which has been broken on a number of occasions, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said everything should be done to reach a compromise, adding, "It would be wrong not to try it."
sb/glb (dpa, Reuters)