Former chancellor and gas lobbyist Gerhard Schröder loses some of his privileges. The chairman of the defense committee criticizes Friedrich Merz. And the Ukrainian Ambassador Andrey Melnyk is calling for Germany and France to play a mediating role. All voices and developments on the Ukraine war here in the ticker.

7:34 p.m .: The US Congress has passed a new aid package for Ukraine worth 40 billion dollars (38 billion euros). After the House of Representatives, the Senate in Washington voted in favor of the package on Thursday, which provides for, among other things, six billion dollars for armored vehicles and air defense systems for the Ukrainian armed forces. There was a broad cross-party majority of 86 to 11 votes for the new Ukraine aid. Now President Joe Biden has yet to sign the law.

The package also includes $9 billion in arms for the US armed forces, after they have shipped numerous armaments to Ukraine. Nine billion dollars are earmarked for maintaining government functions in Ukraine. In addition, the United States is also providing additional funds for humanitarian aid.

6.48 p.m .: After almost three months of war in Ukraine, the chiefs of staff of the USA and Ukraine held a talk on the situation in the country. At Washington’s initiative, Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and his US counterpart Mark Milley discussed issues of mutual interest during the phone call, including the situation in Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said in Moscow on Thursday. Details were not given.

For the first time since Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine began on February 24, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called his Russian colleague Sergei Shoigu last Friday. Austin had urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of further communication.

2:53 p.m .: The chairwoman of the defense committee in the Bundestag, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, was shocked by the behavior of Union faction leader Friedrich Merz. During his appearance in the Bundestag on Thursday, he presented himself as “rude”, “unprofessional” and “uninformed” in terms of content, said the FDP politician on the TV station Welt.

Strack-Zimmermann, for example, criticized Merz’s accusation that practically no heavy weapons were currently being delivered to Ukraine. “I’m surprised Friedrich Merz said that. Friedrich Merz should have sat down with his defense politicians before his speech. Then he would know that the whole thing was going well,” she said. He should have known, for example, that “we also train” and “that these heavy weapons are being prepared”. Merz was “simply uninformed on the subject”.

In addition, Merz called for the dismissal of Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD). Lambrecht took her 21-year-old son with him in a government helicopter to visit troops in northern Germany in mid-April and has been publicly criticized ever since. “You can be critical of each other, but I think it’s not appropriate to react to press articles and attack a minister in such a debate,” Strack-Zimmermann criticized the statements by opposition leader Merz.

He, in particular, who has already “experienced similar criticism first hand”, should be more reserved. “He was kicked out by Angela Merkel, which he obviously hasn’t overcome to this day.”

2:13 p.m .: Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has been criticized for his contacts with Russia, has to give up some of his privileges. The Budget Committee of the Bundestag decided on Thursday to close its office – but the SPD politician should continue to receive a pension and personal protection, as the German Press Agency learned from committee circles.

12.42 p.m .: The European Parliament has voted in favor of EU sanctions against ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder by a large majority. The reason is the ongoing activity of the SPD politician for Russian state companies such as the energy company Rosneft, according to a resolution passed in Brussels on Thursday.

12.30 p.m .: In his government statement, Chancellor Olaf Scholz commented on the situation in Ukraine. If you listened carefully, you could see between the lines a peace offer to warmonger Putin. You can read more about this in our commentary.

6:32 a.m .: In a conversation with Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), the Ukrainian Foreign Minister apparently became “really angry”. This is reported by the “world”. Accordingly, it was a “difficult conversation” in which Kuleba complained to Lambrecht “that it was not okay to announce something, knowing that there was no ammunition.”

The background is the announced delivery of Gepard tanks to Ukraine. This is currently delayed because there is a lack of ammunition for the tanks.

Surf tip: SPD problem – Christine Lambrecht: What you should know about the defense minister

2:26 a.m .: Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has accused Russia of using the blockade of grain exports from Ukraine as a weapon of war. “By blockading Ukrainian ports, destroying silos, roads and railroads, and especially farmers’ fields, Russia has started a grain war that is fueling a global food crisis,” Baerbock said Wednesday during a foreign ministers’ meeting at the United Nations in New York.

According to information from the federal government, Russia is preventing the export of 20 million tons of grain from Ukraine, primarily to North Africa and Asia, most of it in the port of Odessa. Ukraine is one of the largest grain producers in the world. The US had put the deliberations on food insecurity on the UN agenda and invited more than 30 countries. Secretary of State Baerbock spoke as co-host.

“Russia is waging its brutal war not only with tanks, missiles and bombs,” continued the Green politician. “Russia is waging this war with another terrible but quieter weapon: hunger and deprivation.” This is happening at a time when Millions of people in the Middle East and Africa are already at risk of starvation – due to the climate crisis, the Covid pandemic and regional conflicts.

Because of the war, Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join the Western Defense Alliance on Wednesday. Ideally, the two countries could already be members by the end of the year. However, there were initial delays due to reservations by Turkey.

Melnyk also believes that Ukraine’s EU membership within the next ten years is possible, he told the Funke newspapers. “The main thing for us now is to maintain candidate status. Then the negotiation process can begin. This is an important political decision.” He called on the federal government to “play a leading role in this historic process”.

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