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Germany's Merkel pays Putin a prickly visit

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Last week, the German Bundestag (parliament) passed a 17-point resolution, authored by the German government's special coordinator for Russian affairs Andreas Schockenhoff, that demanded Russia observe European norms of human rights and democracy. Merkel, who faces a tough reelection bid next year, told a Moscow press conference that she had raised at least some of those issues with Putin in their private meeting Friday.

"We spoke about the situation of civil society in Russia and I expressed my concern about plans for certain laws," Merkel said, referring to draconian new Russian legislation that imposes tough penalties on public protest, a harsh requirement that nongovernmental groups that receive outside funding register as "foreign agents," and a sweeping new definition of "treason" that was signed into law by Putin this week.

"I think we need to speak openly and honestly about these issues. This dialogue is a precondition for understanding each other and identifying the conflicts," Merkel added.

But during a public exchange about Pussy Riot, Mr. Putin suggested that Merkel doesn't know all the facts of the case, including what he alleged was one of the Pussy Riot women's involvement in a 2008 "performance art" display which he claimed had anti-Semitic overtones.

"As for political and ideological issues, we hear our partners. But they hear about what's happening from very far away," Putin said.

For example, "Does [Merkel] know that ... one of [the Pussy Riot activists] hung an effigy of a Jew and said that these people need to be got rid of? You and I cannot support people who take an anti-Semitic stance. And I ask you to also take that into account," he added.

'The business community is very happy'

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