In her first interview since the end of her 16 years as German Chancellor, Merkel said she had "nothing to apologize for." Asked why she had opposed plans for NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008. “Ukraine was not the country that we know now."
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her track record in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying she “has nothing to apologize for,” during her first public appearance since leaving office six months ago.
In a public interview Tuesday night with Der Spiegel in Berlin, Merkel was asked about her government’s opposition of a U.S.-led plan for NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008. The Chancellor said she did not regret the decision. “Ukraine was not the country that we know now. It was a Ukraine that was very split” and “ruled by oligarchs at the time.”
She also pointed out that joining NATO was a long process and that during that time, “I knew Putin would have done something to Ukraine that would not have been good for it.” Merkel praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, saying he represented a new Ukraine.
While calling Putin’s invasion “a great mistake,” the former German leader who served for 16 years, also said that the West “didn’t manage to create a security architecture that could have prevented this [war in Ukraine]. And we should think about that too.”
Russia And Turkey Discuss Opening “Food Corridor” In Black Sea
French weekly Le Point's cover last week
Discussions are taking place between the foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia about opening a security corridor in the Black Sea to allow agricultural exports from Ukraine.
Ukraine is a major food exporter, particularly of sunflower oil, maize and wheat. Russia’s invasion and its blockade of the Black Sea has sent food prices skyrocketing, with the effects being felt most in the developing world.
Moscow denies preventing grain exports from leaving Ukraine. Russia stormed out of a UN Security Councilmeeting on Monday after the EU accused it of using food supplies as stealth missiles against the developing world.
Russian state TV suggested that Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and the UN have prepared a road map to provide safe passage for ships carrying grain. However, Kyiv responded that it will not accept any deal that is against Ukrainian interests.
The OECD Slashes Growth Forecast Due To Ukraine War
"Ukrainian Wheat, Hostage of the War" - French daily Le Monde
The OECD has warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is taking a major toll on the world economy, projecting higher inflation and slashing its 2022 growth forecast. In their last economic report, the Paris-based public economic research organizations forecast the GDP would increase by 3% this year, down from its 4.5% estimate in December. The organization also doubled their forecast for inflation among its members (U.S., Australia, Japan, Latin American and European nations) to 8.5%, the highest ever since 1998.
The OECD, which represents the 38 most developed countries, is the latest institution to predict lower GDP growth due to the conflict due to the high food and energy prices.
"The world is set to pay a hefty price for Russia's war against Ukraine," wrote the OECD's chief economist and deputy secretary-general, Laurence Boone. She added that "the extent to which growth will be lower and inflation higher will depend on how the war evolves, but it is clear the poorest will be hit hardest.”
800 Civilians Hiding In Severodonetsk Chemical Plant
Severodonetsk Azot plant
Fighting continues in and around the strategic eastern city of Severodonetsk, as Ukrainian troops resist Russian assaults, with the UK Ministry of Defense reporting that neither side has gained significant ground in the last 24 hours. This comes after a week of intensified battle between Ukraine and Russia for Severodonetsk.
An estimated 800 civilians have taken shelter from Russian attacks in bunkers underneath the Azot chemicals factory in Severodonetsk. A statement released by the plant’s owner states that the group includes 200 of the plant’s workers, and the employees have remained on-site to “safeguard as best as possible what is left of the plant’s highly explosive chemicals”.
Earlier in the war, hundreds of people took refuge in the Azovstal metal works, which became the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in the southern port city of Mariupol.
Russia Says More Than 1,000 Transferred From Azovstal To Russia
Ukrainian Defenders Evacuate Azovstal Steelworks
The Russian edition of TASS reported that more than 1,000 prisoners of war belonging to the Azov regiment, which had been defending Mariupol for several months, were transported from Donbas to Russia.
Ukraine, instead, claims that Russia is deliberately exaggerates the number of POWs, and that fewer than 200 Ukrainian soldiers were transferred from Mariupol, as there were not that many Ukrainians serving in the Azov regiment to begin with.
More Than 200 Bodies From Mariupol Siege Returned
Ukrainian military carry the coffin with the body during the farewell ceremony of a fallen soldier.
The bodies of 210 Ukrainian soldiers have been repatriated by Ukraine, according to the country’s Ministry of Defense.
“The process of returning bodies of fallen defenders of Mariupol is ongoing,” due to the efforts of the POW (Prisoners of War) Treatment Coordinating Staff, the statement said.
It also said that most of the bodies returned to Ukraine were those of the Ukrainian soldiers at the massive Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, before it fell to Russian forces.
The Coordination Staff on behalf of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is working to get the bodies of all the deceased returned, as well as some 2,500 prisoners of war believed held by Russian forces.
Ukraine and Russia have conducted an exchange of bodies as part of the agreement that ended that siege.
Zelensky’s “Book Of Torturers”
President Volodymyr Zelensky
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced, in his nightly address, the launching of a “Book of Torturers" in Ukraine. It will document "war criminals and criminals from the Russian army”.
“Such a ‘Book of Torturers’ is one of the foundations of the responsibility of not only the direct perpetrators of war crimes — soldiers of the occupying army, but also their commanders. Those who gave orders. Those who made possible everything they did in Ukraine. In Bucha, in Mariupol, in all our cities, in all the communities they have reached,” said the Ukrainian president.
This comes after Ukraine's prosecutor general said her office was investigating nearly 6,000 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, with "more and more" proceedings opening every day.
Russian Media Forced To Delete Articles About Soldiers Killed In Ukraine
A file photo from 2019 of Kommersant readers
Regional media outlets are increasingly challenging the government’s demands to remove articles, Moscow-based national daily Kommersantreports.
At least a dozen court challenges to the removal orders have been reported since the outset of the war.
Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) and the prosecutor's office have indicated that the only information about the war in Ukraine considered legitimate is from official Russian federal sources. Thus, neither the statements of mayors or governors are official.
One recent example was the Rostov DonDay website published a collage with pictures of 39 dead Russian military personnel, as well as the number of dead from the region (57 people) and brief details about them. On Tuesday, the publication was removed; the editorial board did not comment on the decision.
The last time the Russian Ministry of Defense named the official data on war deaths was on March 25: the agency claimed that at that time, 1,351 Russian servicemen died during what still must be referred to only as the "special military operation.”
Stuffed Animal To Help Traumatized Ukrainian Children
The Belarusian-born Israeli psychologist, Daphna Sharon Maksimov, runs the Hibuki Open Arms project, a program to help children traumatized by the bombings and violence committed by Russian troops.
According to United Nations numbers, 4.5 million Ukrainian children have been displaced. The therapist has come up with a cuddly toy named Hibuki, a Hebrew word that could be translated as "hug", in order to bring aid to these children.
Hibuki is a stuffed dog with long ears as well as a way to attach around the neck in order to “wipe away tears.”
Uber Helps Ukraine
Residents queue to receive food aid in the village of Krymske, Ukraine
Uber has modified its software for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) in order to help with emergency aid deliveries in Ukraine.
It's hoped that the customized technology, trialed in the central city of Dnipro, will make deliveries easier.
Supplies will be moved around using smaller vehicles and more drivers. Agencies say larger vehicles are at risk of attack and often struggle to get past damaged roads and buildings.
The WFP says it aims to provide aid to three million Ukrainians a month by the end of June and if this system works, it will be spread out to other cities in Ukraine.