A senior German parliamentarian has called off a trip to Russia. This comes a day after a fellow lawmaker was sent home by the Russian authorities after they refused him entry to the country.
Johannes Singhammer, one of the vice presidents of the German parliament, the Bundestag, announced on Tuesday that he had canceled a trip to Moscow in light of the treatment of fellow conservative lawmaker Karl-Georg Wellmann.
"As vice president of the German Bundestag I cannot accept that a Bundestag colleague has been denied entry at a Moscow airport," Singhammer said.
Singhammer had planned to arrive in Moscow this Tuesday, where between now and Friday he had talks scheduled at the Russian interior ministry, with lawmakers from the Russian-German friendship group, church representatives and opposition politicians.
Singhammer indicated, though, that he had postponed, not canceled the trip.
"In difficult times discussion at all levels are important to avoid differing perceptions of reality," Singhammer said. He said he would not consider traveling to Russia at least until the reasons for Wellmann's entry ban were clear.
Praise for postponement
The decision by Singhammer, a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-based sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), to cancel the trip won him praise from a number of fellow parliamentarians.
The Bundestag's speaker or president, Norbert Lammert (CDU), expressed support for the move, as did Greens MEP Rebecca Harms, who called on western European lawmakers to agree on a joint response to the development.
"In any case, we shouldn't accept a Russian a la carte policy" she told the Reuters news agency. "The Kremlin must clearly state whether there is a list of Western politicians who are no longer allowed to enter."
Harms was also barred from entering Russia last September.
Lammert, though, stopped short of supporting the idea of a blanket boycott of trips to Russia by European lawmakers, saying it was "the responsibility of each individual parliamentarian to decide whether such a trip makes sense at this point in time."
Forced to spend night in transit area
Wellmann (CDU), the chairman of the German-Ukrainian parliamentary group, who, like Harms, has been critical of the Kremlin over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea last year and its alleged role in supporting pro-Russia separatists in the conflict in the east of the country, was refused entry when he arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on Sunday night.
Wellmann was forced to spend the night in the transit area before taking the first available flight back to Berlin on Monday. Wellmann also said he was told that he was banned from entering Russia until late 2019.
Germany's ambassador in Moscow has filed a protest over the incident with the Russian foreign ministry.
pfd/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)