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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel warns ‘no military solution’ to Ukraine conflict

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday there is "no military solution" to the Ukraine conflict after President Petro Poroshenko asked for NATO naval support in his country's standoff with Russia.

Merkel warns 'no military solution' to Ukraine conflict
Merkel speaks at the German-Ukrainian business forum in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Blaming Russia for the tensions, Merkel said: “We ask the Ukrainian side too to be sensible because we know that we can only solve things through being reasonable and through dialogue because there is no military solution to these disputes”.

Russia fired on and then seized three Ukrainian ships on Sunday, accusing them of illegally entering its waters in the Sea of Azov and detaining their crew, in a dramatic spike in tensions that raises fears of a wider escalation.

Kiev accused Russia, which annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 
2014, of launching “a new phase of aggression”.

Poroshenko asked Germany and other NATO countries in comments to Bild 
newspaper on Thursday to “relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to 
assist Ukraine and provide security”.

SEE ALSO: Ukrainian president calls on Germany for help in growing conflict

Ukraine is not a NATO member but has established close ties with the US-led 
military alliance, especially since the 2014 Crimea annexation.

Merkel, speaking at a German-Ukrainian business forum, said she would 
discuss the conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in 
Argentina this weekend.

She said a bridge from the Russian mainland to Crimea that Putin opened in  May had already restricted shipping access to the Sea of Azov and therefore to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

“The full blame for this goes to the Russian president,” she said.

“Now what I want is that the facts of what happened are put on the table, 
that the (crew) are released, and that no confessions are coerced like we have 
seen on television.”

“I would also support keeping things calm, but we must also ensure that a city like Mariupol that relies on access to the sea … is not simply cut off so that large parts of Ukraine can no longer be easily reached.”

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UKRAINE

Scholz rejects ‘slanderous’ criticism of his party’s Russia policy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday hit back against accusations his centre-left Social Democrats have been too lenient towards Russia, as critics accuse Berlin of dragging its feet on deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Scholz rejects 'slanderous' criticism of his party's Russia policy

Opponents have confronted his Social Democratic Party (SPD) with a “distorted and slanderous depiction” of its Russia policy since the Second World War, Scholz said in an interview with German weekly Spiegel.

“That annoys me,” he said, adding that the SPD was “bound into the Western and transatlantic alliance”.

Germany said Thursday it had reached an agreement with eastern European partners to supply Ukraine with a new batch of heavy weapons “in the next few days”.

READ ALSO: ‘Too little, too late’: Scholz under fire for inaction on Ukraine

Germany has come under fire for refusing to directly send heavy weapons to Ukraine, even as allies such as the United States, Britain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands up their deliveries.

Much of the criticism has been directed at Scholz, who has faced pressure even from his two junior coalition partners to take tougher action.

But the government has said that after decades of chronic underinvestment, the German army, called the Bundeswehr, is simply not in a position to send the weapons Ukraine wants.

The potential to send arms to Ukraine from the stocks of the Bundeswehr had been “largely exhausted”, Scholz said in the interview.

“What is still available will absolutely still be delivered,” Scholz said, naming anti-tank weapons and artillery munitions.

Other senior SPD members have faced mounting scrutiny since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who is a lobbyist for Russian gas and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

READ ALSO: Scholz ‘irritated’ by Kyiv’s snub to German president

And German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently said his offer to travel to Ukraine in a show of solidarity had been rejected by Kyiv.

Steinmeier, a former SPD foreign minister, for years advocated a policy of detente towards Moscow with a strong focus on commercial ties.

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