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.


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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Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.