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Ukraine updates: Scholz criticized for Taurus 'hesitation'

Published January 7, 2024last updated January 7, 2024

Former President Joachim Gauck has criticized the German government's "hesitation" in delivering Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, and urged Europe to bolster its independent defense capabilities. Follow DW for more.

This picture taken on September 25, 2017 shows a Taurus long-range air-to-surface missile during a media day presentation of a commemoration event marking South Korea's Armed Forces Day
Ukraine has repeatedly requested long-range German "Taurus" cruise missiles such as this one, which belongs to the South Korean military.Image: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Germany's former President Joachim Gauck has criticized Chancellor Olaf Scholz' for "hesitating" to deliver long-range Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine.

Gauck also warned that Germany and Europe were not adequately prepared to respond to the military threat posed by Russia.

Meanwhile, Japan's foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa arrived in Ukraine on Sunday morning ahead of spontaneous meetings in Kyiv.

You can find DW's full coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine here.

Skip next section Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praises alliance of Russian state and church
January 7, 2024

Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praises alliance of Russian state and church

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, used his Christmas sermon to urge Russians to believe in the strength of the Russian economy, army and church in resisting hostile attacks.

"The fatherland is passing through a difficult part of its historical path," he said in a broadcast from Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the early hours of Sunday, Christmas morning in the Russian Orthodox calendar.

The 77-year-old patriarch is a firm ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and referred to the "fruitful cooperation between church and state leadership over many years."

He said that this cooperation should in the future "contribute to the cohesion of the people, the moral and patriotic education of the country's youth and the establishment of peace and social unity."

Much of Ukraine also adheres to Christian Orthodoxy but the country this year celebrated Christmas on December 25 for the first time in an intentional break with Russian custom.

Ukraine celebrates first Christmas on 25 December

Skip next section Belgorod: 100 residents evacuated
January 7, 2024

Belgorod: 100 residents evacuated

More than 100 residents of the Russian city of Belgorod have been evacuated to an area further away from the Ukrainian border following an increase in cross-border shelling.

"On behalf of the regional governor, we met the first Belgorod residents who decided to move to the safest place," said Andrey Chesnokov, head of the Stary Oskol district, some 115 kilometers (71 miles) from Belgorod.

"More than 100 people were placed in our temporary accommodation centers."

Ukrainian shelling of the border city killed 25 people on December 30, according to local officials, and rocket and drone attacks have continued throughout the week.

Russia vows retaliation after attack on Belgorod

Skip next section Japan 'determined to support Ukraine' – foreign minister
January 7, 2024

Japan 'determined to support Ukraine' – foreign minister

Japanese foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa has reiterated her country's "determination" to stand by Ukraine as she became the first foreign official to visit Kyiv this year.

Having arrived in Ukraine on Sunday morning on a surprise extra leg of a European and North American tour, Kamikawa held a press conference with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kubela in the cellar of a Kyiv bomb shelter.

"Japan is determined to support Ukraine so that peace can return to Ukraine," she said, as an air-raid siren rang out above. "I can feel how tense the situation in Ukraine is now. I once again strongly condemn Russia's missile and drone attacks, particularly on New Year's Day."

While Japan's pacifist constitution prevents it from providing offensive weaponry directly to Ukraine, Kamikawa announced that Tokyo would allocate $37 million to provide a drone detection system, plus five generators to help Ukraine's power grid survive another winter.

Kuleba in turn expressed "solidarity" with Japan for the January 1 earthquake, the death toll from which has now reached at least 128.

He said Kyiv was thankful for Japan's decision last year to provide Ukraine with F-16s jets, but said the country also needed air defense systems. "Every day, Ukrainian cities are destroyed by Russian missiles and drones," he said. "They cannot capture us, so they are trying to destroy us."

Kuleba also said the pair discussed "threats from North Korea" relevant to both Japan and Ukraine.

Skip next section Zelenskyy: 'Russian aggression can be defeated'
January 7, 2024

Zelenskyy: 'Russian aggression can be defeated'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has insisted that the ongoing Russian assault against his country "can be defeated" and that "even Russia can be brought back within the framework of international law."

Speaking at a conference in Stockholm, Sweden, via video link, Zelenskyy said that the military situation on the battlefield in Ukraine remains "relatively stable," but said that almost two years of all-out war with Russia have shown that Europe must increase its own defense capabilities.

"Two years of this war have proven that Europe needs its own sufficient arsenal for the defense of freedom, its own capabilities to ensure defense," he said.

Skip next section Putin praises 'heroic Russian warriors' on Orthodox Christmas
January 7, 2024

Putin praises 'heroic Russian warriors' on Orthodox Christmas

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with selected families of fallen Russian soldiers and praised them for "defending Russia's interests" as the country celebrates Orthodox Christmas.

"Even now on this day of celebration, many of our men, our brave, heroic boys, our Russian warriors, are defending the interests of our country with weapons in their hands," he said.

Addressing the relatives of soldiers killed in Ukraine, he said: "I would like our meeting to send a clear and understandable signal to all my colleagues at all levels across the entire Russian Federation: a clear message that we are at your side always and everywhere."

In the Orthodox Christian calendar, Christmas is celebrated on January 6 and 7. Much of Ukraine is also Orthodox but this year the country celebrated Christmas on December 25 for the first time in an intentional break with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Last Christmas, President Putin called for a temporary Christmas truce, a call he has not repeated this year.

Skip next section Kyiv reports 28 Russian drones and 3 missiles fired overnight
January 7, 2024

Kyiv reports 28 Russian drones and 3 missiles fired overnight

Ukraine's air force said on Sunday morning that its air defense systems had shot down 21 out of 28 Russian drones launched against the south and south east of the country overnight.

"The enemy is shifting the focus of attack to the frontline territories - Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk regions were attacked by drones," Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat told national television.

According to local governor Serhiy Lyssak, an educational institution and its dormitory, two multi-apartment buildings and one administrative building were damaged in the city of Dnipro, injuring 12.

The air force also said that Russia had fired three cruise missiles but did not specify what had happened to them.

The attacks came a day after 11 people, including five children, were killed and 10 more injured in a Russian missile strike near the city of Pokrovsk in the eastern Donetsk region.

Skip next section Japanese foreign minister arrives in Ukraine in show of support
January 7, 2024

Japanese foreign minister arrives in Ukraine in show of support

Japan's Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday morning ahead of a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kubela.

In an official statement, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Kamikawa "will once again reiterate to the Ukrainian side that Japan's consistent policy of standing with and supporting Ukraine remains unchanged."

Japan has imposed sanctions on Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, including export bans and asset freezes, and plans to host a conference in Tokyo in February to promote the economic reconstruction of Ukraine.

Beacuse of its broadly pacifist constitution rooted in its defeat in World War II, Japan has not exported weapons to Ukraine. However, it has agreed to provide some of its stocks to the US for use elswhere, that might enable the US to redirect more weaponry to Kyiv.

During her visit to Kyiv, Kamikawa will oversee the ceremonial handover of large-scale power and heating equipment and intends to "demonstrate Japan's determination to uphold the international order based on the 'rule of law' from the perspective that unilateral changes to the status quo by force, such as Russia's aggression against Ukraine, cannot be accepted," according to the statement.

Tokyo's commitment to a rules-based international order is rooted in concerns over its own regional territorial disputes, including with Russia over the four southernmost Kuril Islands, which are considered by Japan to be "illegally occupied" by the Soviet Union and now Russia since the end of the Second World War.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa speaks during the 10th trilateral foreign ministers' meeting in Busan on November 26, 2023.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa has made a surprise visit to UkraineImage: Ahn Young-joon/AFP
Skip next section Former German President criticizes Olaf Scholz for 'hesitation' over Taurus missiles
January 7, 2024

Former German President criticizes Olaf Scholz for 'hesitation' over Taurus missiles

Germany's former President Joachim Gauck has issued stark criticism of Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the latter's hesitation in delivering long-range Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine.

"The Chancellor must keep asking himself whether he is living up to his stated goal of doing all he can to prevent Russia obtaining a victorious peace," Gauck the Bild am Sonntag Sunday paper.

Asked specifically about Ukraine's repeated requests for Taurus missiles, whose 500-kilometer (roughly 300-mile) range would enable Kyiv to strike targets inside Russian territory, Gauck said: "I don't understand why we are hesitating to deliver these and other weapons."

"Given the grueling war of attrition and the abhorrent air attacks on the civilian population, I regard our actions with concern and ask myself whether our support is sufficient," he continued, saying that "a Russian victory would put the medium-term security of further European states at risk."

Ukraine's allies have generally been more reticent to provide Kyiv with ammunition and weaponry capable of striking into Russian territory, typically offering stocks better suited to attacking occupied areas recognized internationally as part of Ukraine, like Crimea or parts of the Donbas.

Gauck also said that Germany and Europe were "not sufficiently armed" to combat the "truly warlike threat" posed by Russia and said it was "important to increase Europe's military capabilities." He also said that in the event of the US no longer providing security guarantees, Europe would need an independent nuclear deterrent. Germany is not a nuclear power.

Gauck, 83, held the largely ceremonial role as Germany's head of state from 2012 to 2017. A former Lutheran pastor, he first came to prominence as an anti-communist activist in former East Germany.

The current incumbent is Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

How significant would Taurus cruise missiles be for Ukraine?

mf/msh (dpa, AFP)