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UKRAINE

‘Too little, too late’: Scholz under fire for inaction on Ukraine

The German Chancellor is facing widespread anger for his refusal to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, with critics accusing him of a lack of leadership.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), speaks at a press conference.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), speaks at a press conference. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

In the past few weeks, an iconic slogan from Olaf Scholz’s election campaign has been repeatedly returning to haunt him: “Wer Führung bestellt, der kriegt sie auch” (If you order leadership, you get it.) 

Facing pressure over his lack of support for a Russian energy embargo and a refusal to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, critics from across the political spectrum – both at home and abroad – are now accusing Scholz of being anything but a decisive leader. 

Germany has so far delivered around €80 million worth of weaponry to Ukraine, but has refused to supply so-called “heavy weapons” such as battle tanks, combat aircraft, warships and submarines.

READ ALSO: Majority of Germans ‘in favour’ of delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine

Following a video conference with NATO and EU government leaders on Tuesday, the German Chancellor’s decision to call a press conference fuelled speculation that a U-turn was coming.

However, to many people’s bemusement, Scholz used the platform to simply reiterate his decision for Germany not to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

He backed up his stance by saying that the Bundeswehr was underequipped and that the delivery of heavy weapons would lead to an uncontrollable escalation of events.

But his words – and the decision to call a press conference in order, in the words of one commentator, to “say nothing” – have provoked a fresh wave of criticism.

‘Disappointment and bitterness’

The Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk said that the German leader’s remarks were received “with great disappointment and bitterness” in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and he poked holes in his argument that the Bundeswehr was underequipped.

“The thesis that the Bundeswehr would no longer be able to supply Ukraine with anything is not comprehensible,” Melnyk said.

He pointed out that the Bundeswehr has more than 400 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, about 100 of which are used for training and education and could be handed over to Ukraine immediately.

“Very crucial would also be the delivery of howitzers 2000.” According to Melnyk, the Bundeswehr has around 120 of these long-range artillery pieces in its inventory.

READ ALSO: Germany has ‘reached limit’ on arms shipments to Ukraine, defence minister admits

German politicians from both within and outside the coalition government are also launching criticism at the Chancellor.

FDP defence politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann attacked the Chancellor on Twitter, saying: “But you have to fight for freedom and human rights, you don’t get them for free. There was still too little substance for that today.”

Another Twitter criticism came from the CDU/CSU, with deputy Union faction leader Johann Wadephul saying: “Germany continues to deliver no heavy weapons, i.e. leaves Ukraine in the lurch.”

On Wednesday, Green Party European politician Anton Hofreiter told ZDF’s morning magazine programme that Germany’s stance could lead to the situation escalating “into an extended de facto third world war.”

“We are slowing down on sanctions, slowing down on arms deliveries, and thus risking the war dragging on longer and longer,” he said.

And politicians aren’t the only ones at odds with Scholz over his stance on Ukraine: a recent poll by Spiegel also revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the Social Democrat’s handling of the crisis amongst the German population. 

In answer to the question: “Would you currently describe Chancellor Olaf Scholz as strong in leadership?”, 65 percent of respondents answered “no”. 

This result marks a painfully ironic turnaround in public feeling towards the Chancellor, whose approval rating was at 65 percent only three months ago.

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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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