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Scholz: Putin still pursuing 'imperialist goal'

September 17, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the Kremlin's ambitions in Ukraine remain unchanged. Meanwhile, Russia is reportedly establishing a defensive line in Donbas. DW has the latest.

A file photo of Vladimir Putin (left) combined with one of Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/AP/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the beginning of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine had always been "friendly in tone," despite their "very, very different, indeed widely differing views on the matter."

His remarks, published Saturday, came days after he held a phone call with Putin that lasted for 90 minutes, according to the German government. 

Putin's goals in Ukraine remain "unchanged," Scholz told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. 

"The Russian president is pursuing his imperialist goal of annexing part of the neighboring territory," Scholz said. 

The German leader insisted on a diplomatic solution to stop the war, calling for a cease-fire and full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

Scholz also claimed that Ukraine's latest gains could be attributed to Berlin's military support. 

The weapons that Germany had provided to Ukraine "made the difference and made possible the successes, the current successes, that Ukraine is recording," he claimed. That is why "it makes sense for us to continue there," he said in the interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.

Germany, which was initially reluctant to supply Kyiv with arms, has recently come under renewed pressure to send Ukraine more advanced weapons systems.

On Thursday, Berlin said it would send more multiple rocket launchers and 50 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

Still, Kyiv is pressing Germany to give it Leopard tanks and Marder armored vehicles. But Berlin insists it would only deliver advanced weapons in coordination with its allies. 

Here's a roundup of some of the other key developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine on September 17.

Zaporizhzhia plant reconnected to grid — IAEA

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine's south is once again receiving electricity from the national grid, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

The plant had been disconnected from Ukraine's national grid for two weeks, when the external power supply was running on emergency lines. The emergency lines occasionally failed due to fighting.

"The restored 750 kilovolt (kV) line is now providing Europe's largest nuclear power plant... with the electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other essential safety functions," the IAEA said.

The IAEA said that engineers repaired one of the four main external power lines. All four had been damaged during Russia's invasion.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said the situation was still unstable despite the improved supply.

The last of the six reactors still in operation was shut down last weekend to avoid having to use emergency generators.

The power plant, located near the city of Enerhodar in Ukraine's southern region of Zaporizhzhia, was captured by Russian forces in March, but has been operated by Ukrainian personnel. Inspectors from the IAEA visited the plant early in September at the invitation of Russia and Ukraine.

EU presidency calls for war crimes tribunal over Izium mass graves

The Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency, has urged the establishment of an international tribunal for war crimes after mass graves were found in northeastern Ukraine after Russian troops were forced out.

Some 450 graves were discovered outside the city of Izium, which Russia had occupied until last week.

Most of the exhumed bodies show signs of torture, Ukrainian officials said, and some of the victims were children.

"In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and abhorrent," Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky wrote on Twitter.

"We must not overlook it. We stand for the punishment of all war criminals," he added.     

Mass grave found near Izium

Biden warns Putin against a tactical nuclear attack on Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin against using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons in the wake of serious losses in his war in Ukraine.

"Don't. Don't. Don't," he told the US TV show "60 Minutes" in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

"You would change the face of war unlike anything since World War II," Biden said, adding that Russia would become "more of a pariah in the world."

Tactical nuclear weapons can be used over short distances and are generally smaller in power, although modern warheads are several times more powerful than the ones used by the United States during World War II in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

UK: Russian forces setting up new defensive line

Russian troops are working to establish a new defensive line in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, the UK Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

The line is likely between the Oskil River and Svatove, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, the report said.

The move follows Ukraine's success in recapturing large parts of territory in the northeast of the country.

A map highlighting areas recaptured by Ukraine, areas controlled by pro-Russia separatists and areas with Russian military presence
Ukraine has regained swathes of territory since early September

"Any substantial loss of territory in Luhansk [in the Donbas region] will unambiguously undermine Russia's strategy," the UK Defense Ministry said.

"Russia will likely attempt to conduct a stubborn defense of this area, but it is unclear whether Russia's front line forces have sufficient reserves or adequate morale to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault," it added. 

Moscow said Saturday that its forces had launched strikes on Ukrainian positions in the Kherson, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

The Russian Defense Ministry added that Ukrainian forces had carried out an unsuccessful offensive near Pravdyne in Kherson.

Further north on Saturday, one person was killed and two others injured in shelling near the Russian city of Belgorod, not far from the Ukrainian border, TASS news agency reported.

Rosneft slams Germany's 'illegal' expropriation

Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft has accused Berlin of undertaking the "forced expropriation" of its German subsidiaries. 

The German government announced on Friday that it placed Rosneft's three refineries in the country under trusteeship as it sought to manage the impact of the energy crisis.

Rosneft said that the seizure was "illegal" and it would take legal action to protect its assets.

The firm insisted that it had fulfilled its legal and contractual obligations.

Rosneft added that Berlin's decision meant that it was no longer possible to "guarantee the industrial and ecological safety of the plant."

UN ship departs Ukraine with wheat for Ethiopia

A third ship charted by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), left Ukraine heading for Ethiopia, Ukraine's infrastructure ministry said.

The vessel, which was carrying around 30,000 tons of wheat, departed from the Chornomorsk Black Sea port.

"We plan to export another 190,000 tonnes, which are currently being purchased by UN partners," the ministry said in a statement, referring to the WFP program for developing countries.

Nine other ships carrying grain for the world market left Ukrainian ports on Saturday, it added.

Ukraine's grain exports restarted at the end of July under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

Three Black Sea ports were blockaded for months by Russia and the halt in exports helped drive up global food prices, prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

$1.5 billion US aid arrives to shore up Ukrainian budget

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal thanked the United States after Kyiv received a further $1.5 billion in international financial assistance.

"The state budget of Ukraine received a grant of $1.5 billion. This is the last tranche of $4.5 billion aid from the United States from @WorldBank Trust Fund," Shmyhal tweeted.

He said the funds would be used to reimburse budget expenditure for pension payments and social assistance programs.

Ukraine has been de-facto printing money to pay its soldiers after its tax revenues plummeted when the war broke out. 

The country has an estimated $5 billion hole in its budget, which is being partly filled by foreign loans, grants from allies, war bonds and tax rises.

But with the economy struggling and war costs soaring, the government is on course to run out of money by the fall, the Kyiv-based Center for Economic Strategy has warned.

Catch up on DW's latest reporting on the war in Ukraine

Ukraine has reported atrocities in the towns it recently recaptured. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Russia's military as "torturers" as officials began exhuming bodies from a mass burial site near Izium.

DW reports on the alleged war crimes and other developments from earlier this week.

In a new blueprint for a postwar order, several countries are set to guarantee Ukraine's security as a precursor to NATO membership. Russia has expressed its disapproval in no uncertain terms. 

DW takes a closer look into such a possibility

Dubbed "NAFO," a global internet army employs witty memes — most featuring a Shibu dog — to challenge Russian disinformation online.

Jordan Maris, head of the #NAFO delegation to the European Parliament, tells DW their power lies in mockery rather than truth-telling

mm, fb/dj (dpa, Reuters) 

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