BERLIN (Reuters) - Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in October, risking a repeat of the firestorm caused by their meeting in February, a German newspaper said on Wednesday.
The Straubinger Tagblatt, citing an internal document, reported that Seehofer’s meeting with Putin was planned for Oct. 5 as part of a broader visit to Moscow that will also include a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Seehofer, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel who has blamed her open-door refugee policy for a spate of recent violent attacks in Germany, sparked tensions in Berlin’s right-left coalition government when he met Putin in February.
Critics accused him of pursuing an alternate foreign policy.
But Seehofer defended the visit, arguing for the need to maintain political and economic ties with Russia, while Merkel has taken a tough line on Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine.
A spokesman for the Bavarian premier’s office confirmed Seehofer’s plans for another visit to Moscow, but declined comment on the dates reported by the newspaper.
German-Russian ties were strained early this year when Moscow stepped into a row over the alleged rape of a German-Russian girl in Berlin by migrants, heightening suspicions in Germany that Russia was trying to erode public trust in Merkel by exploiting the immigration issue.
Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), has been among the strongest voices demanding that Merkel close the frontiers and send back migrants with no right to political asylum.
The two politicians had sought to mend fences earlier this summer, but three separate attacks in Bavaria last month - including two blamed on Islamic State - prompted Seehofer to renew criticism of the chancellor.
Reporting by Joern Poltz; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tom Heneghan