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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Scholz calls Putin’s announcements ‘act of desperation’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday condemned President Vladimir Putin's order for a partial military mobilisation to support Russia's war in Ukraine and the holding of annexation referendums as an "act of desperation".

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks in New York.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks in New York. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Scholz insisted Russia “cannot win this criminal war” in Ukraine and that Putin “with his most recent decisions makes everything much worse”.

The German leader said Putin had “from the start completely underestimated Ukrainians’ will to resist” as well as the “unity and determination” of Kyiv’s allies.

“Sham referendums” in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine would “of course never be accepted” by the international community, Scholz said, and would hence be “no justification” for Russia’s “intention, namely to conquer land of its neighbour with violence”.

“In the world in which we live, the law must win out over force and force can never be stronger than the law,” he said.

Germany’s vice chancellor Robert Habeck had earlier slammed the partial military mobilisation as a “bad and wrong step”.

“With the partial mobilisation (Russia) is further escalating this war of aggression that violates international law,” he tweeted.

“A bad and wrong step, which we strongly condemn… We continue to fully support Ukraine.”

Scholz believes the move signals that Russia’s campaign in Ukraine “is not going successfully”, his deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters.

Russia had to pull its troops back from Kyiv early in the war and also did not achieve the successes it hoped for in the east, where Ukraine has mounted a lightning counter-offensive, the spokesman noted.

Ukraine had been “very effective in defending its integrity and sovereignty not least because of the massive… support from countries of the world, especially Germany”, he added.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner told a press conference the mobilisation indicated the war will last for a long time, and “we must adjust politically and economically”.

In a pre-recorded address to the nation early on Wednesday, Putin announced the mobilisation and vowed to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory, after Moscow-held regions of Ukraine suddenly announced the annexation referendums.

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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Germany raids Russian oligarch’s yacht in tax probe

German investigators on Tuesday raided a yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch suspected of evading taxes, laundering money and violating EU sanctions, prosecutors said.

Germany raids Russian oligarch's yacht in tax probe

The public prosecutor’s office in the western city of Frankfurt said more than 60 officers searched the vessel belonging to a “69-year-old businessman from the Russian Federation”.

They did not name the suspect, but he is thought to be billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former president of the International Fencing Federation.

Between 2017 and 2022, the suspect is accused of funnelling several million euros acquired in illegal activities, including tax evasion, through an “extensive and complex network of companies and corporations”, prosecutors said in a statement.

They added that the search was also carried out to comply with a request for assistance from the US Justice Department on its own probe.

READ ALSO: Germany seizes world’s largest yacht owned by Russian oligarch

German investigators had already raided two properties belonging to Usmanov last week in the Bavarian district of Miesbach, as part of searches targeting a total of 24 properties linked to the Russian oligarch and four other people.

Tuesday’s raid had zeroed in on the “Dilbar”, the world’s biggest yacht by tonnage owned by Usmanov.

The 155-metre (500-foot) vessel, named for Usmanov’s mother and valued at around $600 million, had been docked in a Hamburg shipyard since October 2021 for repairs. It is now moored in the northern port city of Bremen.

Usmanov was ranked at number six in the Sunday Times list of the world’s richest people in 2021.

He is one of dozens of Russian billionaires hit by Western sanctions following the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

Usmanov is currently believed to be residing in Uzbekistan, according to Der Spiegel, which said he is accused of evading at least €555 million ($534 million) in German taxes since 2014.

The magazine said complications in enforcing economic sanctions in Germany had led investigators to rely heavily on tax law to try to bring suspected violators — including Russian oligarchs — to book.

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