After talks in Moscow, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder expressed confidence that Russia would seek a “negotiated solution” in the war against Ukraine. The recently reached agreement between the warring parties on grain exports from Ukraine is an “initial success” that could perhaps “slowly be expanded into a ceasefire,” he said in an interview with the magazine “Stern” and the broadcasters RTL and ntv .

He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week. “The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” said Schröder. Accordingly, there are “real fears of encirclement in Russia, which are fed by history”. Then he added: “And unfortunately they have their justification.”

Although he again called the war a “mistake of the Russian government”, the former Chancellor declared: “If you look at the problems that are really relevant, they can be solved.”

Even the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj said on the subject of NATO membership “that there is an alternative, such as armed neutrality for Ukraine, without NATO membership, like Austria”.

Schröder emphasized in the interview that he believed that the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea – which Russia had annexed in 2014 – was lost to Kyiv. “The notion that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy will recapture Crimea militarily is absurd,” he said. “Who seriously believes that a Russian president could ever give up Crimea again?”

Schröder expressly praised the mediation efforts of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the conflict. “The Turks were very helpful, just as they are currently very helpful in negotiations about grain deliveries,” said Schröder. “But it won’t work without a yes from Washington,” he said, referring to the US government’s position.

It was “a big mistake to denigrate possible concessions by Ukraine as a Russian ‘dictated peace’ in advance,” said Schröder. He believed that the really relevant issues could be resolved, including a compromise for the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

“To do this, a solution based on the Swiss canton model will have to be found,” Schröder continued. The real question must be: “Do you want to solve the conflict at all?” Then there must be concessions on both sides.

The former chancellor has long been criticized for his closeness to Putin and the Russian oil and gas industry. However, he again rejected a break with his friend Putin. He had “condemned the war several times” and at the same time asked whether a “personal distancing from Vladimir Putin would really benefit anyone”. He made “decisions and I stand by them”.

In addition, the 78-year-old stated that he as a private person could not end the conflict, even if he had one or the other opportunity to “share a few thoughts with the people involved”.

In the debate, however, he does not understand why he should end talks “that are legally possible and do not get me and my family into trouble”. Then he added: “Maybe I can be useful again. So why should I apologize?”

Schröder had already traveled to Moscow in early March and had spoken to Putin about the Ukraine war. Even afterwards he reported that Putin was interested in a negotiated solution.

According to critics, including those from his own party, Schröder has not sufficiently distanced himself from Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. A party expulsion procedure is currently underway against him because of his closeness to Putin and his commitment to Russian state-owned companies.