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UKRAINE

Ukraine blasts Germany’s ‘excuses’ over tank deliveries

Ukraine's Foreign Minister on Tuesday slammed Berlin for its failure so far to deliver Leopard battle tanks despite repeated pleas from Kyiv.

Ukrainian soldiers stand on a country road in the liberated territory in the Kharkiv region on Monday September 12th.
Ukrainian soldiers stand on a country road in the liberated territory in the Kharkiv region on Monday September 12th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Kostiantyn Liberov

“Not a single rational argument on why these weapons cannot be supplied, only abstract fears and excuses,” said Dmytro Kuleba.

“What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not?” he said in a post on Twitter.

After initial reluctance to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to beat back the Russian invasion, Germany has since upped its support for Kyiv’s troops.

Piles of ammunition and rocket launchers have been delivered to Ukraine, as well as dozens of anti-aircraft tanks and howitzers.

Kyiv is however pushing for more weapons deliveries to consolidate recent battlefield gains, including Leopard battle tanks.

But Berlin has so far declined to send the battle tanks, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday saying Germany would not “go it alone” on weapons deliveries without coordinating with allies.

READ ALSO: Why has Germany been so slow to deliver weapons?

His Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Monday also stressed that no country had sent Western-made battle tanks to Ukraine.

“We agreed that there will be no go-it-alone in Germany,” she said, reiterating Scholz’s remarks at a separate event.

Scholz meanwhile argued that Germany has already “delivered very efficient weapons that are making the difference on the battlefield at the moment”.

Germany would “support Ukraine as long as is necessary”, he added.

Ukraine launched a lightning counter-offensive in early September that has resulted in it reclaiming control of vast tracts of land in the northeast and south of the country.

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

More tanks ready

German arms maker Rheinmetall told public broadcaster ARD that 16 Marder infantry fighting vehicles it had restored at its own cost were “ready to be delivered” to Ukraine, if officials in Berlin gave the go-ahead.

Besides the Leopard battle tanks, the Marders are high up on the list of items Ukraine has urged Berlin to supply.

Rheinmetall was preparing another 14 Marders, with the potential to supply a further 70 vehicles out of storage, ARD reported.

The raging debate over the Leopards and Marders was reminiscent of the earlier uproar over Germany’s initial stuttering response on providing military support to Kyiv.

Scholz’s government only made a U-turn after much public haranguing by Ukrainian leaders, and the Chancellor has since said Germany would take on “special responsibility” to help Ukraine build up its artillery and air defence systems.

But Ukraine’s urgent pleas for Leopard tanks and Marder vehicles have so far gone unanswered, and even figures from within the ruling coalition of Scholz’s Social Democrats, the liberal FDP and the Greens, are urging the chancellor to relent.

Berlin’s reluctance to send the armour came “at the expense of Ukraine” the head of the parliamentary defence committee, FDP MP Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, told AFP.

Germany should “stop hiding behind other countries”, senior Green MP Anton Hofreiter told the RND media network.

“Sooner or later we will not be able to avoid supplying modern, western main battle tanks to Ukraine,” he said.

Agreements with allies over weapons deliveries were not “set in stone”, Michael Roth, the social democrat chair of the Bundestag’s foreign policy committee, told public radio Deutschlandfunk.

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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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