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UKRAINE

‘Whatever it takes’: Calls grow for painful German blockade of Russian gas

Germany has rejected a complete ban on Russian gas and oil imports over Russia invading Ukraine, but voices are growing louder for Berlin to ditch its economic imperative to take a moral stand. 

'Whatever it takes': Calls grow for painful German blockade of Russian gas
A natural gas station in eastern Germany. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

After the United States and Britain imposed a ban on Russian oil, pressure has mounted on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government and other G7 members to follow suit.    

A group of climate activists, academics, authors and scientists published an open letter to the German government on Wednesday demanding a complete ban on Russian energy, reasoning that “we are all financing this war”.    

In a newspaper opinion piece this week, conservative lawmaker and foreign policy expert Norbert Roettgen also said the only correct course of action was to “stop Russia’s oil and gas business now”.    

“Nearly a billion euros ($1.1 billion) are being poured into (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war chests every day, thwarting our sanctions against the Russian central bank” and “for many Ukrainians, it will be too late if we hesitate now,” he wrote.    

So far, Scholz’s government has remained unmoved, reasoning that sanctions should not risk destabilising the countries imposing them.    

Since Germany imports more than half its gas and coal and about a third of its oil from Russia, experts say a transition period would be needed to avoid the lights going out.    

READ ALSO: How Germany could end its dependence on Russian energy

“If we end up in a situation where nurses and teachers are not coming to work, where we have no electricity for several days… Putin will have won part of the battle, because he will have plunged other countries into chaos,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned on Tuesday.    

Underlining the precariousness of Germany’s situation, Baerbock also admitted in a separate interview that Economy Minister Robert Habeck, also of the ecologist Green party, was “urgently trying to buy hard coal worldwide”.    

Experts say a complete embargo would be painful, but not impossible.

‘Whatever it takes’

In a study published this week, nine economists argued that oil and coal from Russia could easily be replaced by imports from other countries, though this could be a little trickier for gas.    

If Russian gas cannot be fully compensated for by other suppliers, households and businesses “would have to accept a 30 percent drop in supply”, and Germany’s total energy consumption would dip by around eight percent, the study said.    

According to the economists, GDP could fall by 0.2 to 3 percent and the sanctions could cost each German between 80 and 1,000 euros a year, depending on how much Russian gas can be replaced.    

The Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences has also said that temporarily stopping Russian gas supplies would be tough but manageable for the German economy, “even if energy bottlenecks could occur in the coming winter”.    

But, to protect consumers against price hikes and to encourage the transition to renewable energy, significant government support would likely be needed.    

For the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, a war in Europe is an “emergency” that justifies continuing with the “whatever it takes” mentality spawned by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Germany can borrow money for this,” it said, arguing that a “rich” country like Germany “can and must afford” to step away from Russian energy.    

Observers have also noted that Germany has the option of delaying its nuclear exit – planned for the end of the year.   

Conservative Christoph Heusgen, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, told the ARD broadcaster that Germans are ready to turn down the heating to help.    

“People in Germany have shown such solidarity with the Ukrainians that they wouldn’t mind if it was a bit colder in their living rooms,” he said.    

According to a YouGov poll published this week, the majority of Germans would support a boycott of Russian oil and gas, with 54 percent of respondents saying they were strongly or somewhat in favour.

SEE ALSO: Russian energy imports ‘essential’ to Europeans’ lives, says German Chancellor

Member comments

  1. Shut the gas off. Don’t shut it off. Putin don’t care. He will sell it to china, they need it. And Germany and Europe will be in darkness. With skyrocketing prices. That doesn’t matter either really because the wealthiest can afford it. But average Joe is about to loose everything and suffer.

    Remember its all Putins fault. Absolutely nothing to do with 30 years of terrible policies.

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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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