Germany accuses Russia of twisting minister's war comments for 'propaganda'
BERLIN (Reuters) - Russia has twisted comments by Germany's foreign minister about the war in Ukraine for propaganda purposes, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday, stressing Berlin's position that NATO must not become party to the conflict.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock riled Moscow with comments at an event in Strasbourg on Tuesday, when, speaking in English, she said that "we are fighting a war against Russia, and not against each other".
She spoke the day before the German government announced it was arming Ukraine with advanced Leopard tanks, putting aside earlier reservations about whether such a move could prompt Moscow to escalate the war.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in a post on her Telegram messaging channel cited by state TASS news agency on Wednesday, seized on Baerbock's comments as evidence the West was waging a "premeditated war against Russia".
While Baerbock has often sounded more hawkish than other members of the German cabinet about supporting Ukraine, Berlin has repeatedly stressed that it wants to avoid the NATO alliance becoming a party to the conflict. This concern was part of the reason for Germany's delay in agreeing to send the Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
"Russian propaganda continually takes statements, sentences, stances, positions of the government, our partners and uses them to serve their purposes," said the German foreign ministry spokesperson.
Kyiv and its Western allies say Russia's invasion of Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24 last year, amounts to an unprovoked war of aggression aimed at seizing territory. Moscow says the West is using Ukraine to weaken Russia's own security.
(Reporting by Rachel More and Miranda Murray; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Paul Carrel)