The former German leader said on Tuesday that she tried hard when she was in office to prevent the situation in Ukraine from developing to the current state, adding that she does not blame herself for not trying hard enough.
Speaking of the 2014 Minsk agreement with Russia, she said: “It’s a great sadness that it didn’t work out, but I don’t blame myself for not trying.
“I have tried to work in the direction of preventing mischief.
“And if diplomacy doesn’t succeed, this doesn’t mean that it was therefore wrong.
“Thus I don’t see why I should say: ‘That was wrong.’
“And therefore I won’t apologise.”
She spoke in an interview with German journalist and author Alexander Osang that was televised by broadcaster ARD.
Mrs Merkel, who led the West’s imposition of sanctions on Russia in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea, said the Minsk agreement had calmed the situation and gave Ukraine time to become what it is today.
She added: “What would have happened if nobody cared in 2014 and Putin just continued?
“I don’t want to know that at all.”
Mrs Merkel said there was no justification for Russia’s “brutal disregard of international law” in Ukraine, adding that she had been against a plan to let Ukraine into NATO because she wanted to prevent escalation with Russia and Ukraine was not ready.
“We simply didn’t succeed in creating a security architecture to prevent that,” she added.
Mrs Merkel, a conservative, made a brief statement shortly after Russia’s invasion in February, but her silence since then has raised eyebrows.
In April, she was criticised for visiting Italy shortly after news of atrocities in Bucha, near Kyiv, rather than taking up an invitation to visit Ukraine.
“Invited to Bucha, driven to Florence”, mass-selling Bild newspaper titled a report on her visit.
In the hour-and-a-half interview, the 67-year-old said she knew the trip would be controversial but she wanted to make clear that she was no longer the Chancellor.
She said: “This trip was very important to me for my process of decoupling from politics.”