SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert has criticized Gerhard Schröder’s resignation from his position on the supervisory board of the Russian energy company Rosneft as a step that was too late. The decision of the former SPD chancellor was “probably not entirely accidental,” said Kühnert of the Düsseldorf “Rheinische Post” (Saturday), obviously with a view to the pressure on Schröder from the federal government, the Bundestag and the EU Parliament. “Unfortunately much too late.”
However, Kühnert kept a low profile on the EU Parliament’s specific demand for sanctions against Schröder. “I have no reason to hold a protective hand over him. If there are clear, objective criteria for sanctions lists, then of course they apply to everyone. Others will have to judge whether that is the case here.”
On the other hand, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) opposed the demand for sanctions and, with a view to the withdrawal of some of the former chancellor’s privileges by the Bundestag, said: “This is the decision that is now necessary, I don’t think any more are necessary.”
Rosneft announced on Friday that Schröder would not extend his term as head of the supervisory board. Schröder is also nominated for the supervisory board of the Russian energy company Gazprom and works as a leading lobbyist for the Gazprom subsidiaries Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2.
The Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer told the “Handelsblatt”: “Neither Mr. Schröder nor the SPD will be able to leave this matter behind with half measures.” He accused the Chancellor of refusing to speak plain language. “Scholz’s statements about the Schröder cause show hesitation.” And: “Scholz speaks more as an SPD man and less as a chancellor.”
SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert defended Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s (SPD) style of communication. “He is a brand with his Hanseatic sobriety. I can’t take Heino’s sunglasses away and Udo Lindenberg’s hat.” And: “If Olaf Scholz started talking like (Federal Economics Minister) Robert Habeck, everyone would think it was carnival.” History would prove Scholz right that his deliberative manner is the right one to convey serious politics in serious times.
The US rating agency Moody’s has again downgraded Ukraine’s credit rating in light of Russia’s war of aggression against the country. Moody’s gave a negative outlook on Friday (local time) for the drop by one level to Caa3 – so further downgrades could follow. At the beginning of March, Moody’s had already downgraded Ukraine’s credit rating by two notches from B3 to Caa2.
The reason for the renewed downgrade is “a longer-lasting military conflict than Moody’s initially expected”. This increases the risk of Ukrainian debt restructuring and losses for private sector creditors. Despite extensive financial support from the international community, there is a risk that the significant increase in Ukraine’s public debt will prove “unsustainable in the medium term,” Moody’s said.
The G7 finance ministers, chaired by Germany, pledged additional billions in aid to Ukraine at their meeting in Koenigswinter near Bonn on Friday. According to the joint final declaration, these now total 19.8 billion US dollars (about 18.7 billion euros) for the current year, of which 9.8 billion dollars were newly committed at the meeting.
The military historian Sönke Neitzel has criticized Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s (SPD) warnings about an escalation of the Russian war in Ukraine as “unwise in terms of foreign policy, even risky”. “Scholz shows Putin his fear,” said the Potsdam professor of military history of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”. “That promotes the image of a weak West. This is exactly what made Putin dare to go to war in the first place.”
Ukraine’s survival depends on the United States. “If Ukraine had relied on Germany and the EU, it would now be Russian. You have to say it bluntly,” said Neitzel. In his estimation, the war will last “many more years”. Scholz’s call for a ceasefire was “understandable, but wishful thinking”.
Neither side is so weak militarily that they have to negotiate to avert total defeat. Moscow’s troops are currently digging in in southern Ukraine along the land bridge to Crimea and doing everything in eastern Ukraine to capture and then hold the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) is committed to greater cost relief for citizens. The new DGB chairwoman Yasmin Fahimi told the newspapers of the Funke media group: “Pensioners and students must not go away empty-handed. You should also get the energy flat rate of 300 euros.” In addition, she demanded “a temporary reduction in VAT for energy and a gas price cap for all households”.
Fahimi criticized the lack of accuracy with the tax relief. People with low incomes would not have enough of it. “Of the total cost to the state of the Tax Relief Act, only 7 percent goes to increasing the distance allowance for long-distance commuters,” she said. “The rest is more likely to be distributed with the watering can. This also applies to the increase in the employee allowance from 1,000 to 1,200 euros.”
Greece has officially lodged a complaint about violations of its airspace by Turkish warplanes. According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, on Friday it issued “an immediate and resolute protest” to the Turkish ambassador in Athens over the “unprecedented violation of Greece’s national sovereignty by two Turkish warplanes”. In doing so, Turkey “broke all the basic rules of international law”.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the Turkish aircraft illegally entered Greek airspace. They would have approached the eastern Greek city of Alexandroupolis to within 2.5 nautical miles. This is “a clear escalation of provocative Turkish behavior,” the statement said. NATO partner Turkey is thus undermining the cohesion of the defense alliance and poses “a clear threat to the European Union at a crucial juncture”.
Finally, the port of Alexandroupolis is “an important hub for the transport of troops and equipment to strengthen our allies,” it said. The Greek government announced that it would inform NATO, the EU and the United Nations about the incident.
Greece and Turkey are neighbors and NATO partners, but have had a strained relationship for many years. Athens regularly accuses Turkish warplanes of violating Greek airspace. NATO cohesion is currently of particular importance in view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian government has put former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky on its list of “foreign agents.” The 59-year-old Kasparov and the 58-year-old ex-tycoon Khodorkovsky also had their activities financed by “sources” in Ukraine, the Russian Justice Ministry justified the move on Friday in an updated version of its list of “foreign agents”.
They are subject to numerous restrictions and requirements, including being required to state their “foreign agent” status in all their publications. The classification is reminiscent of the defamation of critics in the Soviet Union as “enemies of the people” and is used extensively against opposition politicians as well as journalists critical of the government and human rights activists. The Kremlin accuses them of having their activities financed from abroad.
The well-known former world chess champion Kasparov has long been a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has lived in the US for almost a decade. Khodorkovsky was one of the most powerful businessmen in Russia in the 1990s before he ran afoul of the Kremlin after Putin took office in 2000 and spent ten years in Russian prison.