German party rejects punishment for ex-leader's Russia links

BERLIN (AP) — Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder won't be sanctioned by his political party because of his ties with Russian state-owned companies, local media reported Thursday.

The dpa news agency and others cited a decision by the Social Democratic Party's regional committee in Hannover rejecting bids to punish Schröder for his involvement with Russian state energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom and with Nord Stream AG, which operates undersea gas pipelines that explosions damaged last year.

The SPD party's panel ruled there was insufficient proof that Schröder, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and the Social Democrats’ leader from 1999 to 2004, had broken party principles or statutes.

While the committee noted that German politicians may have misjudged the risks posed by the country's dependence on Russian energy, it said that wasn't an allegation that could be applied exclusively to Schröder, the panel said.

Had the committee upheld the complaint, Schröder, who is a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin — could have faced expulsion from the party.

The panel's decision can be appealed.

The Associated Press