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Germany’s Scholz supports Ukraine amid Russian invasion fears

Olaf Scholz firmly backed Ukraine by underlining the "inviolability of borders" in his first New Year's speech as German chancellor on Friday, amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz poses for photographs during the recording of his New Year's speech at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz poses for photographs during the recording of his New Year's speech at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on December 30th, 2021. Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP

The clear warning to Russia marks a rare message for a New Year’s speech typically dedicated to domestic issues.

“With a view on Ukraine, there are currently new challenges here. The inviolability of borders is a valuable asset — and non-negotiable,” Scholz said.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent weeks over former Soviet territory Ukraine, with some 100,000 Russian troops massed near the border.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the Crimean peninsula from Kiev in 2014 and is accused of fomenting a pro-Russian separatist war that erupted that year in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow describes the menacing troop presence as protection against an encroaching West, particularly NATO, although Ukraine has not been offered membership in the military alliance.

A telephone call between US President Joe Biden and Putin is planned for early January, with the aim of seeking diplomatic solutions to the soaring tensions over Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Berlin and Moscow to meet over Ukraine in January

In his speech, Scholz described transatlantic cooperation as “indispensable” for European security.

But he also called for greater international cooperation and for a “sovereign and strong Europe” capable of standing up for itself.

With Germany taking over the presidency of the G7 from January 1st, Scholz said he will strive to make the group of wealthy nations “a pioneer for climate-neutral economies and a just world”.

READ ALSO: Russian gas must not be ‘weapon’ against Ukraine: German Chancellor Merkel

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POLITICS

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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