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UKRAINE

Germany to reconsider Schroeder’s perks over Russia ties

The German government will consider withdrawing perks given to ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder because of his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany's finance minister said Saturday.

erhard Schroeder with Vladimir Putin
Ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexey DRUZHININ / SPUTNIK / AFP

Schroeder, who is a lobbyist for Russian gas, sparked fresh outrage after he told the New York Times that he would only give up his links if Russia stopped delivering gas to Germany. He said he did not believe this would happen.

There should be “consequences” for Schroeder’s refusal to sever ties with several Russian groups and his failure to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, Finance Minister Christian Lindner told the Funke newspaper group.

It is “no longer conceivable that an office is made available to him paid for by the taxpayer”, Lindner said.

READ ALSO: Germany to authorise tank deliveries to Ukraine

As former chancellor, Schroeder has the right to several offices in the German parliament and a budget for staff. The perks cost the taxpayer €400,000 ($422,000) per year.

“The former holders of high-level posts, who are clearly on the side of criminal governments, cannot count on state support,” Lindner said.

Schroeder’s perks could be reduced during debates for the 2023 budget.

“It would be wise to streamline the facilities of former high-level officials and to reduce them over time. In this context, we should also
discuss some sort of code of honour regarding behaviour,” liberal FDP party leader Lindner said.

READ ALSO: Germany loses patience with ex-chancellor’s Russia lobbying

The FDP is part of the coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Pressure is growing on Schroeder, 77, and he has become a troublesome figure for Scholz, who he mentored.

Several cities have withdrawn his honours and there are mounting calls on Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) to expel their former leader.

Most former European leaders who had ties to Russian businesses before the Ukraine war have resigned from their roles.

Schroeder is president of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, the controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany which for the moment does not have an operating licence.

READ ALSO: Scholz rejects ‘slanderous’ criticism of his party’s Russia policy

He also has a senior position with Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company.

Before the invasion, Germany reached out to Russia, believing that developing trade ties would encourage democracy to gradually flourish in the country.

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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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