January 29, 2016 / 6:08 PM / in 2 years

Germany says rape claim that caused tensions with Russia was disproved

BERLIN (Reuters) - Police say they have disproved claims by a girl of Russian descent from a poor Berlin suburb that she was kidnapped and raped by migrants, German prosecutors said on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the police handling of the case this week and accused Germany of “sweeping problems under the rug”.

His German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier accused Russia of exploiting the case for “political propaganda” and to influence a debate about immigration to Germany, which registered 1.1 million new arrivals last year.

Public opinion has swung against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, particularly since women in Cologne complained of assaults by migrants at New Year celebrations.

In the Berlin case, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told Reuters that mobile phone location tracking data did not support the girl’s account that migrants held her for 30 hours.

The girl’s claim that she had been raped was also disproved, the spokesman added.

Her allegations aroused outrage in Berlin’s Russian community and Russian media have reported extensively on it.

German media said a family conflict could have prompted the girl to disappear.

Lavrov and Steinmeier spoke by telephone on Friday, officials in Berlin and Moscow confirmed. They did not say if they had discussed the girl’s case.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova in Moscow; Editing by Michael Nienaber/Ruth Pitchford

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