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Germany

Merkel gets down to business in Russia

Economic cooperation is at the top of the agenda as German Chancellor Angela Merkel begins a trip to Russia to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev. She's being joined by a delegation of 25 German business leaders.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Russia is a key economic partner for Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Russia for two days of trade talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The talks, which include ministers from their respective governments, will focus on economic cooperation. Accompanying Merkel on her trip is a delegation of 25 business leaders, including the heads German companies like Siemens, Volkswagen, Airbus, BASF, Metro and Commerzbank.

In Russia, Merkel and Peter Loescher, CEO of engineering giant Siemens, are to sign a 2.2-billion-euro ($2.8 billion) deal to supply 200 trains to Russia's RJD railway company's regional network.

A high-speed Siemens train in Russia

Siemens is winning over rail operators in Russia with its high-speed and regional trains

It's the second such contract this year for Siemens, and the company has also signed on to provide 54 trains for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Germany is Russia's main economic partner and the two countries did 47 billion euros worth of trade in 2008. German exports to Russia were up by more than 200 percent between 2000 and 2009 but have fallen in the last few years. Industrial leaders in Germany are hoping Merkel will push Medvedev to revamp Russia's economy.

"[The goal is] to intensify our relationship with Russia and to see where German-Russian relations can lead to better economic cooperation, to a modernization," Merkel said upon her arrival.

Sticky issues

Also on the agenda is Iran's controversial nuclear program, the war in Afghanistan, Russia's relationship with the European Union and energy supply concerns. Germany relies on Russia for many of its mineral resources and improving her country's access to gas and oil is a priority for the chancellor.

Murdered human rights activist Natalya Estemirova

Estemirova is just one of many activists killed in Russia in recent years

Merkel has indicated she intends to raise the issue of human rights. Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova. She was found shot in the head in Ingushetia, in southwestern Russia, after she was kidnapped from outside her home.

Memorial, the organization she worked for, has accused Chechnya's pro-Kremlin leader Ramzan Kadyrov of being behind the crime. Estemirova's murder and other human rights concerns will certainly be on Merkel's radar, but potential points of conflict are not expected to be emphasized in the meetings.

"We will also discuss domestic political problems and various issues which have to do with human rights," Merkel said. "But [we will] also talk about research, education and health."

After Russia, Merkel is scheduled to head to China and then on to Kazakhstan. She is to meet with the leaders of both countries. German exports to China and Kazakhstan jumped 285 percent and 270 percent, respectively, between 2000 and 2009.

This will be Merkel's fourth trip to China since taking office in 2005, and her first to Kazakhstan.

Author: Holly Fox (mz/AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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