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UKRAINE

German prosecutors launch investigation into Ukraine war crimes

Germany's federal prosecutor has opened a probe into suspected war crimes by Russian troops since the invasion of Ukraine, authorities said Tuesday, amid international outrage over attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure.

A secondary school destroyed in the war, about 30 kilometres south of Kyiv, Ukraine.
A secondary school destroyed in the war, about 30 kilometres south of Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire | Mykhaylo Palinchak

“We will collect and secure all evidence of war crimes,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

Germany’s federal prosecution office in Karlsruhe has opened a so-called structural investigation to begin collecting evidence, he said.

A source in the office confirmed to AFP that a probe had been opened.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is “a serious violation of international law that cannot be justified by anything,” Buschmann added.

“Possible violations of international criminal law must be consistently prosecuted.”

READ ALSO: Russian energy imports ‘essential’ to Europeans’ lives, says German chancellor

A structural investigation does not target particular suspects, but aims to gather evidence of the suspected crimes and identify the structures behind them, such as the chain of command.

The evidence can then be used in future criminal proceedings against individual suspects.

Der Spiegel weekly reported that German prosecutors were spurred into action by reports of the use of cluster bombs by Russia, as well as images of residential areas being targeted, and attacks on a gas pipeline, a nuclear waste dump and a power plant.

Russia has come under intense criticism for its assault on Ukrainian cities, in operations that Kyiv and Western governments say have included
attacks on schools, hospitals and residential blocks.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington has seen “very credible reports” that Russia has committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague already announced last week that he was going ahead with an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion.

Germany has in the past repeatedly prosecuted atrocities committed abroad, including the war in Syria.

It does so using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction — which allows countries to try people for crimes of exceptional gravity, including war crimes and genocide, even if they were committed in a different country.

A German court in January sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in jail for overseeing the murder of 27 people and the torture of 4,000 others at a Damascus detention centre a decade ago.

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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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