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UKRAINE

Germany to get weaponised drones for the first time

Germany will get weaponised drones for the first time after years of debate, parliamentary sources told AFP Wednesday, as the EU giant, shaken by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, moves to ramp up its defence capabilities.

Bundeswehr soldiers at a military training area in northern Germany.
Bundeswehr soldiers at a military training area in northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Germany’s armed forces have until now only been allowed to deploy unarmed drones for reconnaissance purposes, leaving other allies to use weaponised unmanned combat aerial vehicles in the field.

Non-weaponised drones were approved by parliament in 2018, but a plan to equip them with arms was put on ice after strong opposition from the Social Democrats, then junior partners in former chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition.

But the devices have come back on the military’s shopping list as Chancellor Olaf Scholz, himself a Social Democrat, announced a massive spending spree to equip Germany militarily after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Zeitenwende – how war in Ukraine has sparked a massive shift in Germany

On Wednesday, the parliamentary defence committee approved the purchase of 140 Heron TP armed drones from Israel in a contract worth 152.6 million euros ($165 million), sources said.

The drones are expected to be delivered within two years, with 60 of them to be used for training purposes while the remaining 80 will be used for “operational deployment”.

“The security situation in Europe has essentially changed with the attack of Russia on Ukraine,” the defence ministry said in a position paper put to the parliamentary committee and seen by AFP.

“In order to counter the new threat, the Bundeswehr’s equipment must be upgraded without delay, including in particular the arming of the Heron drones.

“The need is absolutely necessary because serious state interests of a political nature would be otherwise compromised and this is not acceptable.”

Disrepair

Germany’s army has been suffering from underinvestment over the years.

Defence commissioner Eva Högl’s latest report of the state of the military had underlined a litany of equipment issues – from the majority of combat vehicles, naval ships and fighter jets in disrepair to a woeful lack of newer generation arms like rifles or even parachutes.

Scholz had announced in a landmark speech three days after Russian troops marched into Ukraine that Germany would set aside a special budget of 100 billion euros for the military, as well as plough more than two percent of its output on defence annually.

Since then frantic negotiations have been ongoing to close huge defence deals, including a purchase of up to 35 F-35 fighter jets from the United States and 15 Eurofighter jets from a consortium that includes Airbus.

Germany is also looking at acquiring an anti-missile shield system dubbed the Iron Dome from Israel. The Arrow 3 system, costing around two billion euros, is powerful enough to offer protective cover for neighbouring EU nations.

Member comments

  1. Thankfully the government has all this money to spend. I bet taxes won’t increase.
    The non war party getting very ready for a war I see. If you buy a tank you’re going to want to use it.
    Buying this stuff in a panic is incredibly dumb. Germany will pay through the nose for equipment that they probably won’t use. The iron dome is probably going to be horrendously more expensive than they claim. What would its upkeep be? The only missiles crossing german boarders will be nuclear anyway. Shoot them down or they detonate will be a disaster. We would be better of investing in anti armour weapons and good training. Look at what a militia are achieving against Russia in the Ukraine. All without 100 billion a year

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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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