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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

After Crash, Putin Thanks Berlin

ReutersBavarian leader Edmund Stoiber, left, introducing members of his delegation to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin thanked Germany for its hospitality toward relatives of victims of a recent plane collision at a meeting Wednesday with the main challenger in upcoming German elections, Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber.

Putin met earlier this week with families of victims of the crash, who he said asked him to thank German residents "and the German leadership for the very warm and informal attitude toward the relatives of the deceased Russian citizens," Interfax reported.

Seventy-one people were killed last week when a Bashkirian Airlines Tu-154 jet slammed into a Boeing DHL cargo jet over Lake Constance on Germany's border with Switzerland. The passengers included 44 Bashkortostan children. Their relatives flew to Germany last Thursday to view the accident site.

Putin emphasized that his meeting with Stoiber was part of normal contacts with the German opposition and was supported by German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, who is facing a strong challenge from the conservative leader in fall elections.

Stoiber underscored that deeper ties between Russia and Germany had roots even before the Sept. 11 attacks, which led Putin to make a dramatic pro-Western shift in his foreign policy.

"It is of great importance for relations between Germany and Europe how relations between my country and Russia develop," Interfax quoted Stoiber as saying.

"They have always been special for Germany."

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced plans Wednesday for joint training of German and Russian paratroopers in fighting terrorists.

Both countries' defense ministries have "completed theoretical preparation for the training and at present practical preparation is under way," he was quoted by Interfax as saying at meetings with Stoiber.

Schr?der has fostered warm relations with Putin, based in part on Putin's fluency in German from his time as a KGB agent in former East Germany.

Knowing the Russian leader's language ability, Stoiber began speaking without pausing for translation. But Interfax said Putin interrupted him and apologized.

"As for me, I perfectly understand you, but my colleagues do not yet know German. Let us allow the interpreter to work a bit," Putin said.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov underscored Russia's positive relations with Germany as a key component of European and global security during his meeting with Stoiber.

But in an interview with the daily Izvestia published Wednesday, Ivanov expressed pessimism about the main thorn in relations between Moscow and Europe -- the Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea and concessions for its residents to be able to travel visa-free through future European Union member states to mainland Russia.

"We are conducting talks with Brussels, but unfortunately I don't think that in the next few years any real movement is possible," Ivanov told the newspaper.

Kaliningrad is separated from the rest of Russia and bordered by EU candidates Poland and Lithuania.

Stoiber was to depart later Wednesday.