(Adds details, background)
By Gernot Heller
BERLIN, Sept 2 German Vice Chancellor and
Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel will travel to Russia soon to
meet President Vladimir Putin on a visit that is likely to focus
on business relations between the two powers, an economy
ministry source told Reuters on Friday.
Gabriel will be accompanied to the meeting with Putin by a
delegation of German business leaders. The agenda of the meeting
will be current issues, especially German-Russian business
relations, the source said.
No date for the trip was immediately available.
Gabriel is the leader of the centre-left Social Democrats
(SPD), whose last chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, is still a
close ally of Putin.
The trip could highlight divisions within the ruling
right-left coalition over policy towards Russia as the two
coalition partners begin squaring off ahead of next year's
Gabriel's SPD backs a more conciliatory stance towards
Moscow than Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian
In March, Gabriel called for the European Union to try to
create conditions by the summer to lift the sanctions imposed
against Russia two years ago for its annexation of Crimea and
support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
German industry leaders have also called for relaxing
Merkel herself has repeatedly said that the sanctions can be
lifted on Russia only once the Minsk peace agreement to end the
conflict in Ukraine has been fully implemented.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; writing by Erik Kirschbaum;
editing by Andrea Shalal and Richard Balmforth)