BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany protested to Russia on Monday over Moscow’s refusal to let a conservative German lawmaker into the country, a decision the Foreign Ministry criticized as unacceptable, in the latest sign of East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis.
Karl-Georg Wellmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and head of the German-Ukraine parliamentary group, had called Russia a “warmonger” earlier this year for supporting separatist forces in Ukraine, which Moscow denies.
Wellmann, who has called for tougher sanctions against Russia, told Reuters he spent the whole of Sunday night in the transit section of a Moscow airport and flew home the next morning, having been told he was not allowed to enter the country until 2019. He said no reason was given.
He said that he had a diplomatic passport to enter Russia, and had planned to meet Russian and German embassy officials.
“I wasn’t planning to meet any opposition leaders or demonstrators,” he told Reuters. “Evidently I was stopped by certain powers.”
The German government issued a protest to the Russian ambassador in Berlin and Germany’s ambassador in Moscow Ruediger Freiherr von Fritsch made a demarche to the Russian Foreign Ministry as well, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said.
“From the German government’s point of view Russia’s refusal to allow ... Wellmann’s entry is incomprehensible and unacceptable,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “Germany expects the refusal to allow him in to be lifted.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry declined to comment, citing its policy of not discussing any denials of entry. The federal migration service declined immediate comment.
Relations between Russia and Germany, countries with multi-billion-dollar trade and energy links, are at a low point over the conflict in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia. More than 6,200 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
Russia dismisses accusations from Ukraine, NATO and Western powers that is arming the separatists and supporting them with its own troops.
Last month, Russia protested at Germany’s decision to deny entry at a Berlin airport to three members of a motorcycle club.
Last September, the German co-chair of the Greens group in the European Parliament, Rebecca Harms, said she had been barred from entering Russia. She said she believed she was on a secret Russian blacklist that could contain the names of politicians who had backed sanctions against Moscow.
Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum and Gabi Sajonz-Grim in Berlin, and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Mark Trevelyan