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UKRAINE

Scholz ‘irritated’ by Kyiv’s snub to German president

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday he was"irritated" by Kyiv's rejection of a proposed visit by Germany's president, a snub that has ruffled diplomatic feathers at a time when the war-hit nation is seeking more weapons from Berlin. 

Scholz 'irritated' by Kyiv's snub to German president
Olaf Scholz and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace in December 2021. Photo: dpa | Bernd Von Jutrczenka

The Ukrainian presidency has instead said it wants to welcome Scholz to Kyiv, but the chancellor indicated he had no plans to visit anytime soon. 

Asked by RBB public radio when he would follow in the footsteps of other EU leaders and travel to Kyiv, Scholz dodged the question and stressed his “very regular” phone calls with President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Berlin has reacted with dismay to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s revelation on Tuesday that he had offered to visit Ukraine, but Kyiv had told him he was “not wanted” right now. 

The move against Steinmeier – a former foreign minister who recently acknowledged “errors” in a too conciliatory stance toward Moscow in the past – was widely seen as a diplomatic affront in Germany. 

Scholz said he was “irritated, to put it politely”, noting that Steinmeier had strongly condemned Russia’s aggression. “It would have been good to receive him,” he told RBB. 

‘Direct decisions’

Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych told German public television on Wednesday it had not been Zelensky’s intention to offend Berlin. 

“I think the main argument was different — our president expects the chancellor, so that he (Scholz) can take direct practical decisions, including weapons deliveries,” he told broadcaster ZDF. 

The German president has a largely ceremonial role while the chancellor heads the government. 

The spat comes as Scholz is facing growing pressure to step up support for Ukraine in the face of the seven-week-old Russian invasion which has cost the lives of thousands of civilians. 

Arestovych said the fate of the strategic port city of Mariupol and the civilian population of eastern Ukraine “depends on the German weapons we could get”, but that have not been promised.  

Time is of the essence because “every minute that a tank doesn’t arrive… it is our children who are dying, being raped, being killed”, Arestovych said. 

The German political class “has seen the terrible images” of the war which he said recalled the destruction of Berlin in 1945. What the Russian army is doing in Ukraine “isn’t any different”. 

Spiral of escalation

Scholz, like Steinmeier a Social Democrat, initially responded to the Russian onslaught by promising a dramatic about-face in German defence and foreign policy including a massive increase in military spending. 

But he has thus far refused, primarily for historical reasons, to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. 

Germany has until now sent defensive arms including anti-tank weapons, missile launchers and surface-to-air missiles in response to the conflict. 

The stance has sharpened tensions within Scholz’s government, with ministers from the co-ruling Green party urging additional weapons deliveries. 

“There is only one person who can point the way and that is Chancellor Olaf Scholz,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, head of the defence committee in the lower house of parliament and a leading deputy from the Free Democrats, the third party in Scholz’s coalition. 

However members of the Social Democrats indicated their opposition to stepping up arms supplies to Ukraine, warning of a spiral of escalation. 

“If we deliver heavy weapons, then we quickly face the question whether German training teams or volunteers from Germany to run the weapons systems are necessary,” MP Joe Weingarten told daily Die Welt. 

SEE ALSO: Pressure grows on Scholz as German delegation visits Ukraine

Member comments

  1. “irritated” is not a good translation of “irritiert”. The German word is much milder, closer to “perplexed”. Of course, it’s clear that Scholz was actually annoyed, but he used a milder euphemism.

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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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