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CULTURE

Munich gives Russian maestro ultimatum over Ukraine

Acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev on Friday was told to speak out against Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine or risk losing his job as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev conducts at a concert in Moscow
Russian conductor and Mariinsky Theatre Artistic Director Valery Gergiev performs during a gala-concert dedicated to the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament at Red Square in Moscow on June 13th, 2018. Sergei CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP

Gergiev, known for his warm ties with the Kremlin, had already faced pressure from other arts institutions wary of working with him since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday.

“I have made my position clear to Gergiev and also called on him to clearly and unequivocally distance himself from the brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine,” Munich mayor Dieter Reiter said in a statement.

“Should Gergiev not have clearly taken a stance by Monday, he can no longer remain chief conductor of our Philharmonic Orchestra,” Reiter said.

As well as being the principal conductor in Munich since 2015, Gergiev is also the chief of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.

He has not yet spoken publicly regarding Moscow’s offensive, but he has proven fiercely loyal to the Russian president in the past, allying with him on  the annexation of Crimea and a law aimed at stifling LGBT rights activists in Russia.

Gergiev has also faced pressure to speak out in Milan, where he is currently leading Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” at the Teatro alla Scala.

If he doesn’t, “the collaboration will be over,” Italian media quoted Milan’s mayor as saying.

He was also suddenly dropped on Thursday from concerts where he was due to lead the Vienna Philharmonic at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

A spokesperson for the prestigious venue told AFP the decision had been taken “due to recent world events”.

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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