German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder's defence of Russian President Vladimir Putin is "downright absurd" and he should resign from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) he headed for many years, current party co-leader Saskia Esken said on Monday.
Schröder, who heads the supervisory board of the Russian state energy giant Rosneft and chairs the shareholders' committee of the pipeline company Nord Stream, has failed to offer any criticism of Putin in the wake of his country's invasion of Ukraine.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Schröder - chancellor from 1998 to 2005 - outright defended the Kremlin leader against accusations of war crimes, saying that the order for mass killings had likely come from lower-ranking officials, not Putin.
Resigning his mandates with Russian corporations "would have been necessary to save his reputation as a former and once-successful chancellor - unfortunately, he did not follow this advice," Esken told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday.
"Gerhard Schröder has been acting merely as a businessman for many years, and we should stop perceiving him as an elder statesman, as a former chancellor," Esken said.
"His defence of Vladimir Putin against accusations of war crimes is downright absurd," she added, saying that he should resign from the SPD.