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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Germany braces for ‘big impact’ over Russia sanctions

Germany can expect a "big impact" from the ripple effects of Western sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Thursday.

Robert Habeck (Greens), Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, talks to press on Thursday.
Robert Habeck (Greens), Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, talks to press on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The fallout from the war is likely to derail Germany’s hoped-for economic rebound in the second quarter of 2022 on the back of eased coronavirus curbs, Habeck told reporters.

“The impact of the sanctions and of the war on all sectors of the economy is so strong that we can fear a big impact,” he said.

But despite the “difficult business climate”, Habeck praised companies for backing the sanctions and supporting the international response against
Moscow’s aggression.

The United States and European allies have imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at isolating Russia from the global financial and trade system, including punitive measures targeting businesses, banks and billionaires.

German car giants Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW have announced that they are suspending operations in Russia as a result, while plants in other countries are being idled as the fighting in Ukraine disrupts supply chains.

READ ALSO: How Russian sanctions could affect travel to and from Germany

“We must be grateful for the fact that all the companies I have spoken to, both in the US and here, fully support the sanctions, even though it is a considerable burden for them, even though employees are affected and the situation is tense,” Habeck said.

Export powerhouse Germany traditionally has close commercial ties to Russia, and Habeck said Berlin would help shield affected companies from the fallout.

“German firms have invested around 20 billion euros in Russia,” he said, of which only around 7.4 billion euros was covered by insurance.

The German government would make cheap credit available through its public lender KfW to help compensate for some of the losses, he added.

Habeck also warned of the impact of rising energy costs and disruptions in the delivery of certain raw materials, at a time when Germany, like the rest of Europe, is already grappling with soaring inflation.

After the lifting of pandemic restrictions and a gradual easing of the supply chain woes that had plagued global trade, “we had all hoped that we
would experience an economic upswing this spring” that would return the German economy to its pre-pandemic level, Habeck said.

But Germany now has to factor in “the consequences of the war”, he said.

“And it must be said once again that it is Vladimir Putin alone who has burdened the global community with these consequences,” he added.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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