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UKRAINE

Why has Germany been slow to deliver weapons to Ukraine?

Germany has promised Ukraine world-class weapons in the fight against Russia. But questions are being asked over why some deliveries are taking so long.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in Kyiv on Thursday June 16th.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in Kyiv on Thursday June 16th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

What’s happening?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to send Ukraine  a range of weapons – from self-propelled howitzers to multiple launch rocket systems and an air defence shield capable of protecting a “large city” from Russian strikes.

But the sluggishness in the actual delivery of heavy weapons to bolster Ukraine against Russia’s invasion has raised questions on whether the Social Democrat leader’s pledges are sincere.

Trust was already beginning to show signs of eroding among Germany’s allies over the repeated rows over the urgently awaited armaments.

With Scholz’s long-awaited trip to Kyiv on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week ramped up the pressure on the German chancellor.

READ ALSO: Macron, Scholz and Draghi to meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

“Every leader of our partner countries and naturally the chancellor as well knows exactly what Ukraine needs. It’s just that the (weapons) deliveries from Germany are still less than they could be,” Zelensky told Wednesday’s Die Zeit weekly.

In a hint of what he seemed to think might be holding Scholz back, the Ukrainian president added in a separate interview with ZDF broadcaster that “there must be no attempt at a balancing act between Ukraine and the relationship with Russia”.

Why is there a delay on weapons arriving in Ukraine?

Scholz himself has batted off the accusations, as he underlined that Germany “will deliver all the weapons that we have set in motion”.

He argued, however, that there was no point sending complicated modern weapons without first training Ukrainian troops how to use them.

Training is underway in Germany, he told a press conference this week, stressing that the weapons will follow once soldiers know how to deploy them effectively.

“I think that it would be a good thing for one or the other to think for a moment before he expresses his opinion,” he added, in a sign of irritation at the repeated queries.

With pointed criticisms levied almost on a daily basis – including by Ukraine’s outspoken ambassador – the German government fears they could unwittingly play into the hands of Russia.

But observers said the bad press was not surprising given the stuttering German response compared to other major Western allies such as the United States or Britain, or even when put next to much smaller eastern European nations like the Baltic states.

Marina Henke, director of the Hertie School’s Centre for International Security, said the problem is that “confusion” still reigns in the chancellery over how to handle Russia.

“There is no clear sense of direction,” she told AFP, noting the US, Britain and eastern Europe have all identified Vladimir Putin’s Russia as the clear enemy and therefore taken the lead in plying Ukraine with armaments.

“Here in Germany, there is the idea that Russia is a massive country on our doorstep and in all these actions, we need to think about how we can live with Russia in the long term,” she said.

“That’s why there is a confusion” that means major weapons pledges are being held up by Germany’s complex bureaucracy, she added.

Marcel Dirsus of the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University also noted that “the German government appears quite content to take a middle of the road approach where they’re doing enough to avoid the most severe criticism, but they’re not really taking any initiative to go beyond that.

“It’s almost a deliberate attempt to do as little as they can get away with.”

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

‘Huge fog’

Among the latest weapon promises made by Germany have been the Iris-T air defence system and the Mars II multiple launch rocket system.

But hours after Scholz mentioned the Iris-T, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock poured cold water on a swift deployment, warning it would take months before the air defence shield reached Ukraine.

The rocket launchers are due to arrive reportedly in August or September but on condition  Ukrainian soldiers are trained to use them by then.

Gepard anti-aircraft tanks pledged in April have been delayed to July at the earliest due to an ammunition shortfall.

Seven self-propelled howitzers promised in May are pending amid ongoing training of Ukrainian troops.

Poland has accused Germany of failing to provide Leopard battle tanks to make up for the ones that Warsaw had sent ahead to Kyiv.

The Czech Republic is also waiting on a similar swap deal, but talks are still on.

“The German Ukraine policy has been shrouded in the last weeks by a huge fog of big announcements, logistical problems, tactical withdrawals and a verbal lack of clarity,” said Die Zeit weekly.

The chancellery has defended its line as “strategic ambiguity”, but the weekly warned that this policy “has a price that Ukrainians are paying daily” in hundreds of deaths  in their eastern Donbas region alone.

“Clarity and sincerity are the minimum that Scholz must bring to Ukraine,” it said.

By Hui Min NEO

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CRIME

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

Borys Shyfrin fled as a young child, along with other members of his Jewish family, from the Nazis.

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

More than eight decades on, the Ukrainian Holocaust survivor has been forced from his home once more – but this time he’s found a safe haven in Germany.

Shyfrin is among a number of Ukrainian Jews who lived through the Nazi terror and have now fled to the country from which Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich launched its drive try to wipe Jews out.

He never wanted to leave Mariupol, where he had lived for decades. But Russia’s brutal assault on the Ukrainian port city made it impossible to stay.

“There was no gas, no electricity, no water whatsoever,” the 81-year-old told AFP from a care home in Frankfurt, recalling the relentless bombardment by Moscow’s forces.

“We were waiting for the authorities to come… We waited for a day, two days a week.”

Bodies of people killed by bombs and gunfire littered the streets, recalled Shyfrin, a widower who had lost contact with his only son.

“There were so many of them… no one picked them up. People got used to it – no one paid attention.”

People scraped by finding what food they could, with water supplied by a fire engine that made regular visits to his neighbourhood.

Shyfrin’s apartment was damaged during the fighting in Mariupol – defended so fiercely that it became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance – and he spent much time sheltering in the cellar of his building.

Became homeless

The elderly man eventually left Mariupol with the aid of a rabbi, who helped the local Jewish population get out of the city.

He was evacuated to Crimea, and from there, travelled on a lengthy overland journey through Russia and Belarus, eventually arriving in Warsaw, Poland.

After some weeks in Poland, a place in a care home was found in Frankfurt.

In July, he was transported to Germany in an ambulance, with the help of the Claims Conference, a Jewish organisation that has been aiding the evacuation of Ukrainian Holocaust survivors.

Shyfrin, who walks with the aid of a stick, is still processing the whirlwind of events that carried him unexpectedly to Germany.

The outbreak of war was a “very big surprise”, he said.

“I used to love (Russian President Vladimir) Putin very much,” said Shyfrin, who is a native Russian speaker, did military service in the Soviet Union, and went on to work as a radio engineer with the military.

“Now I do not know whether Putin is right to be at war with Ukraine or not – but somehow, because of this war, I have become homeless.”

Shyfrin was born in 1941, in Gomel, Belarus.

When he was just three months old, his family fled to Tajikistan to escape German Nazi forces who were occupying the region.

Many of Belarus’s Jews died during the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed a total of six million European Jews.

In neighbouring Ukraine, the once-large Jewish community was also almost completely wiped out.

After the war, his family returned to Belarus and Shyfrin completed his studies, did military service, and settled in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in the mid-1970s.

“Traumatised”

The pensioner seemed philosophical about the twist of fate that has forced him to leave his home.

“Well, it’s not up to me,” he said, when asked about having to flee war for the second time in his life.

His most immediate concerns are more practical – such as how to access his money back home.

“I can’t even receive my honestly earned military pension,” he said.

He recently moved to a new care home run by the Jewish community, where there are more Russian speakers.

As well as helping Shyfrin on the final leg of his journey, the Claims Conference provided him with financial assistance.

It has evacuated over 90 Ukrainian Holocaust survivors to Germany since the outbreak of the conflict, a break from the organisation’s usual work of ensuring that survivors get compensation and ongoing support.

The body had long been helping to run care programmes for Holocaust victims in Ukraine.

But, as the conflict intensified, it became clear such care programmes could no longer be sustained, particularly in the east, said Ruediger Mahlo, the Conference’s representative in Germany.

“Because many of the survivors needed a lot of care and could not survive without this help, it was clear we had to try to do everything to evacuate (them),” he told AFP.

Getting them out involved huge logistical challenges, from finding ambulances in Ukraine to locating suitable care homes.

For many of the frail Holocaust survivors, it can be a struggle to grasp the fact that they have found refuge in Germany, said Mahlo.

They are fleeing to a country that “had in the past persecuted them, and done everything to kill them,” he said.

“Certainly, they are traumatised,” he said.

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