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UKRAINE

German gas embargo could help end Ukraine war, says expert

A debate is raging in Germany over whether the government should put in place an immediate stop to Russian energy imports. The question is, could a move like this be helpful in stopping the war? According to one expert, the answer is yes.

A woman walks past a burnt-out building in Mariupol, Ukraine
A woman walks past a burnt-out building in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/XinHua | Victor

Experts on Russia and security policy believe that a ban on energy imports on Russia could hit the Kremlin where it hurts. 

Speaking to Tagesschau, Janis Kluge, a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, described an energy embargo as the “ideal sanction” due to maximal impact on the Russian government and minimal impact on civilians.

“The state budget, from which the military is financed, would be weakened,” he explained. “Moreover, the collateral damage for the Russian population would not be as high as with other measures. A boycott of gas would be a targeted instrument that hits exactly the right people.”

According to Kluge, the income from oil and gas exports is “of existential importance to the Kremlin”. Even with hard-hitting sanctions on oligarchs and Russian banks, the government continues to be able to finance itself through its energy revenues.

“As long as this income exists, Putin can continue to pay the security agencies and subsidise the companies that are crucial to maintaining his power,” Kluge added.

READ ALSO: What would happen if Germany stopped accepting Russian gas?

Sanctions carve-outs for energy

Countries in the West have imposed tough sanctions of Russia since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

But many European nations, including Germany, are reluctant to include the energy sector in the sanctions due the feared impact on industry and the economy. 

At present, Germany receives around 40 percent of its natural gas, 37 percent of its oil and 57 percent of it coal from Russia, making it heavily reliant on the hostile state for its energy needs. 

This is one of the key reasons why Germany originally vetoed excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system – which enables international transactions – at the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. 

EU and Ukrainian flags in Brussels

The flags of the European Union member states fly alongside the Ukrainian flag in Brussels. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Jean-Francois Badias

EU member states were eventually able to agree on a SWIFT ban – but, largely due to pressure from Germany, the measure included a carve-out for banks such as Gazprom that allowed countries to continue to pay for Russian energy.

However, as further reports of brutalities by Russian forces emerge, activists are stepping up pressure on the government to enforce an immediate energy embargo and complete exclusion of Russia from SWIFT. 

This, according to the Kluge, would be by far the most effective way to ensure immense damage to the Russian economy and create leverage that the West could use to bring an end to the war. 

“An embargo strikes right at the heart of Russian power,” he said. “Moreover, an import ban on Russian energy can be quickly lifted and thus reward a possible ceasefire. This creates a bargaining chip.”

READ ALSO: Germany examines Russian gas payment terms as supply fears grow

For now, however, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and other cabinet officials continue to reject the idea, with Finance Minister Christian Linder (FDP) saying the government needed “more time” to organise alternative energy sources.

At present, the government has set a goal of weaning itself off Russian oil imports by the end of 2022 and ending natural gas imports by summer 2024. 

For those calling for immediate action to bring the war to an end, however, this is far too late. 

Member comments

  1. The Ukraine conflict could be solved instantly.
    1. Ukraine will not join nato. But will be under nato protection from further invasion.
    2. The areas under contention will be resolved around a table. Not a mortar.
    3. Nazism will be routed out as it has always been unacceptable view.
    4. Military exclusion zones will be set up 40km East and west of Ukraine and Russia (all disputed areas will be protected by the exclusion zones. ).

    The entire conflict would end. But despite all of the suffering. There is profit to be made. So it won’t be solved until everyone has had their fill. Some investment banks ETC are due to make 300% profit from this conflict. Why would it end until the goose is cooked.

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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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