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UKRAINE

Putin bears responsibility for ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine, says Scholz

Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for war crimes in Ukraine that have already left thousands of civilians dead, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) holds a press conference in Berlin on April 19th.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) holds a press conference in Berlin on April 19th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Reuters/Pool | Lisi Niesner

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine remains a blatant breach of international law,” Scholz told reporters following virtual talks with Western leaders on the conflict.

“The killing of thousands of civilians as we have seen is a war crime for which the Russian president bears responsibility,” he said.

“We feel immense grief for the victims and also, it must be said, great anger towards the Russian president and this senseless war.”

Scholz, who is facing growing pressure at home to authorise sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, said a “new phase” had begun in the conflict with Russia’s fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine. 

But despite being repeatedly pressed by reporters on the question of sending tanks, fighter jets or other heavy weapons, Scholz remained vague.

The Social Democrat reiterated that NATO would not get involved in the conflict, but said Western allies were united in their resolve to support Ukraine.

Germany has already shipped anti-tank weapons, surface-to-air missiles, ammunition and other defensive weapons to Ukraine.

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Scholz’s government has also pledged more than a billion euros in financial aid for Ukraine so that the government in Kyiv can buy the weapons it needs to fight back.

But Scholz said Germany would not “go it alone” on weapons, and that any decisions would be made in close cooperation with “friends and allies”.

He raised the possibility of eastern European partners sending older, Russia-made “weapons systems” to Ukraine, because these would be familiar to Ukrainian troops and could be used immediately.

He also said Ukraine had been asked to draw up a list of weapons it needs that could possibly be bought from the defence industry directly.

Scholz and his centre-left SPD party have for weeks argued that sending heavy weapons would risk a spiral of escalation that could see other countries attacked.

But mounting reports of atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine have fuelled calls for Scholz to take a tougher stance, even among his two coalition partners, and growing criticism of his cautious approach. 

MP Anton Hofreiter from the Green party accused the chancellor of failing “to show enough leadership”.

Lawmaker Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, of the liberal FDP, said Germany should not be guided by fear of escalation, because “Putin is unpredictable anyway”.

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

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“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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