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.
7.36 a.m .: The Greens politician and chairman of the European Committee in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter, sees no contradiction between the pacifism of his party and the demands for arms deliveries to Ukraine. “We in the Greens agree that, given the war of aggression that was unfortunately launched by Russia, we see no other option than to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities. And that means we have to supply them with weapons – including heavy weapons,” says Hofreiter in the “Wochentester” podcast from “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger” and “RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland” (RND). “We help the weak against the strong. The attacked against the attacker. We are helping democracy against dictatorship,” said the native of Munich.
The party left, who got nothing when it came to the allocation of cabinet posts, does not want his criticism of the federal government to be understood as revenge. “From what I’ve observed, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck are just as strongly of the opinion that we should support Ukraine. I don’t see what a weird form of revenge it is to step on the Chancellor’s toes by lovingly trying to urge him to do more. What revenge should this be on the Realos?”
A peace with Russia is “very difficult to imagine at the moment in view of the dictatorial regime that rules there,” says Hofreiter. “It would be a step forward if there were a reasonable ceasefire.”
5:15 a.m .: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed that future reconstruction aid for Ukraine be linked to reforms in view of the country’s desire to join the EU. “We will have to help finance the reconstruction of Ukraine anyway,” said von der Leyen on Thursday on the ZDF program “maybrit illner”. Then, in her opinion, it makes sense to say: “Yes to investments, but right away with the necessary reforms, for example against corruption or for example for establishing the rule of law. Ukraine wants that too, I discussed it again this morning with President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy.”
Ukraine wants to join the European Union at any price, so there is a lot of motivation for the upcoming accession process. Ukraine has already applied to join the EU and would like to join as soon as possible. Last but not least, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) slowed down. Accession to the EU usually takes several years from the date of application.
Von der Leyen emphasized that the course of the procedure ultimately depends on how Ukraine develops. “It depends on Ukraine itself how it manages this reconstruction at the end of this war, which we will help with, but how it actually implements the reforms, how it gets rid of the oligarchs, how it makes the necessary economic reforms.”
4:35 a.m .: For the transfer of tanks to Ukraine, the NATO partner Czech Republic should be quickly equipped with Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. “Delivery is scheduled to begin this year and will also include a 30-day supply of 120 mm ammunition,” the German Ministry of Defense told the responsible officials in the Bundestag. “Equipment and ammunition come from industry stocks and are financed by the Federal Republic of Germany. The follow-up care is the responsibility of the Czech Republic.” The letter was presented to the German Press Agency in Berlin on Friday.
The Czech Republic intends to provide Ukraine with significant support by donating 20 T-72 main battle tanks from its own stocks. “In a first step, the Czech Republic is to receive 14 Leopard 2 A4 main battle tanks and one Leopard 2-based recovery vehicle as a replacement for its own delivery,” it says.
3 a.m.: The Ukrainian ambassador Andrij Melnyk has again accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) of being hesitant about the delivery of heavy weapons. “We have the impression that the Chancellor does not want to deliver,” Melnyk told the editorial network Germany (RND, Friday). When asked if Germany was playing for time, Melnyk replied, according to the report: “It looks like it. One can get the impression that one is waiting for a ceasefire. Then the pressure from Germany will be gone and there will no longer be any need for courageous decisions.”
So far, neither Cheetah tanks, nor Leopard 1 or Marder have been delivered, the ambassador criticized. The announced exchange of rings with T-72 tanks for the Ukraine from Slovenia has also not worked out so far.
So far, the federal government has given the go-ahead for 50 decommissioned Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and seven Panzerhaubitz 2000 – heavy artillery pieces from the Bundeswehr stocks. It is not known when the first howitzers will be delivered. Scholz said on Monday that he expected the Gepard tanks to be made available “relatively quickly”. However, he pointed out that ammunition was still being sought abroad. The defense policy spokesman for the Union faction, Florian Hahn (CSU), told the “Bild” that one had to ask whether the cheetah announcement “was just a bluff”.
2:20 a.m .: For Ukraine, the Russian war of aggression means, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, a budget deficit of around five billion US dollars (4.8 billion euros) every month. The head of state said this in his evening video address on Thursday in Kyiv. “In order to survive the war for freedom, we need quick and sufficient financial support,” he said.
Foreign partners of Ukraine should not see aid as expenses or gifts. “It’s their contribution to their own security.” Ukraine protects other countries from war. Together we must ensure that Russia’s aggression is unsuccessful.
Friday, May 20, 12:30 a.m.: The Czech Republic is extending the state of emergency imposed due to the influx of refugees from Ukraine by one month until the end of June. On Thursday evening, the parliament in Prague gave the necessary approval for a corresponding application by the liberal-conservative government. There were 80 deputies for this. There were 50 votes against with 11 abstentions. The state of emergency allows the government to take far-reaching crisis measures.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala promised it would be the last extension. The opposition took the opportunity to criticize. Ex-Finance Minister Alena Schillerova accused the government of “the lack of any plan” and chaos in registration. Far-right politician Tomio Okamura called for bringing the refugees “back home so they can rebuild their country”.
Since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, more than 348,000 Ukrainians have found refuge and been granted residence permits in the Czech Republic. It is estimated that more than a third of them have now left the country. According to official figures, more than 50,000 Ukrainians have already found work.
8:31 p.m .: For the time being, Germany and the Netherlands do not want to deliver more than the twelve 2000 self-propelled howitzers that have already been promised to Ukraine. He does not see an increase “at the moment,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday in The Hague at a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). The Chancellor pointed out that the heavy artillery “cannot be easily made available”. The two heads of government did not say when the first howitzers with a range of 40 kilometers could be delivered.
Alongside the Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, the self-propelled howitzers are the first heavy weapons that Germany intends to deliver to the Ukrainian war zone. The Bundeswehr is also training Ukrainian soldiers to operate the modern guns.
The number twelve – five from the Netherlands and seven from Germany – is not accidental, emphasized Scholz. It has something to do with “the fact that we considered when does it make sense, how much does it have to be in order to create a functioning unit from it,” explained the Chancellor. “And then we both got together and made a little bit more possible than otherwise would have been possible.”
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.
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