German state coffers are bulging with cash as councils and social security logged their biggest surpluses in more than a decade. The achievement is doubtful, however, as it came at the expense of investment and growth.
Germany’s statistics office, Destatis, reported Monday, that Europe’s biggest economy posted a budget surplus of 16.1 billion euros ($21.1 billion) in the fist half of 2014.
Destatis data showed that the federal government alone accumulated a surplus of 4 billion euros in the first six months of the year - the first time it has not registered a deficit in the period since 1991.
The overall surplus, which also includes the budgets of regional and local governments as well as the social security system, amounted to 1.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the airport of the eastern city of Luhansk following clashes with pro-Russian rebels, military officials say.
The announcement came after the two sides were engaged in all-night fighting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged negotiators meeting in the Belarus capital, Minsk, to make an “immediate ceasefire” their priority.
Some 2,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting began in April.
On Friday, as Russian Federation tanks and troops poured across the border into eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin talked about his country’s most destructive weaponry. “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations,” he said. “This is a reality, not just words.” Russia, he told listeners, is “strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces.”
That same day, Putin used a term for eastern Ukraine meaning “New Russia.” So when he refers to repelling “any aggression against Russia” and speaks of “nuclear deterrence,” as he did on Friday, the Russian president is really warning us he will use nukes to protect his grab of Ukrainian territory.
For more than a generation, nuclear weapons were considered defensive only. In a few short sentences on Friday, however, Putin made these devices offensive in nature, just another tool to be employed by an aggressor. And to highlight his threat, on Aug. 14 at Yalta, the Crimean city he had seized this year, Putin mentioned “surprising the West with our new developments in offensive nuclear weapons about which we do not talk yet.”
Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, its strongest plea yet for Western military help, after accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, defiant as ever, compared Kiev’s drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two. He announced that rebels had succeeded in halting it, and proposed that they now permit surrounded Ukrainian troops to retreat.
Speaking to young people at a summer camp, Putin told his countrymen they must be “ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.” He described Ukrainians and Russians as “practically one people,” language that Ukrainians say dismisses the very existence of their thousand-year-old nation.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called today for the parliament in Kiev to begin an immediate debate on possible NATO membership for the country. The United Nations raised its death toll estimate for the conflict to almost 2,600.
“Putin’s decided he can pretty risklessly consolidate the separatists’ territory by openly sending in his own troops,” Jan Techau, director of the Brussels office of the Carnegie Endowment, said in a phone interview. “His goal is creating a statelet he can turn into a frozen conflict.”
Standoff in Ukraine
President Barack Obama said Russia faces “more costs and consequences” because it “has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine. Obama ruled out “a military solution to this problem.” The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the unrest.
- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Russia has sent troops to eastern Ukraine.
- Mr Poroshenko cancelled a trip to Turkey and called urgent meetings of officials to consider Ukraine's response.
- The accusation came as pro-Russian rebels seized control of Novoazovsk in the south-east, threatening to take the port of Mariupol next.
- Alexander Zakharchenko, a pro-Russian rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, said 3-4,000 Russian citizens were fighting with the rebels.
- The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is holding urgent talks on the crisis.
There are two things happening between Ukraine and Russia right now. First, Russian and Ukrainian leaders are meeting in Belarus to negotiate a peace deal in the Ukrainian conflict that Russia insists it has nothing to do with. Second, Russian military forces are crossing the border into Ukraine in what is clearly a hostile invasion and act of war. That includes Russian artillery, Russian tanks, Russian-trained irregular forces, and even uniformed Russian soldiers who have admitted on camera that they are Russian military ordered to invade by their commanders.
But the first piece of that is obfuscating the second. Getting Russia to agree to a peace deal on Ukraine requires lots of careful diplomacy, and that means that no one wants to formally acknowledge Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, even though Russia is definitely invading Ukraine right now. That’s how you have even the more hawkish figures in the Obama administration making statements like this:
Ukraine accused Russian forces of launching a new military incursion across its border on Wednesday, a day after the leaders of both countries agreed to work towards ending a separatist war in the east of the country.
The accusation, which could not be immediately verified, quickly dented any sense of cautious optimism from Tuesday’s late-night talks between presidents Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko on resolving the five-month conflict.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a group of Russian soldiers had crossed the border in armored infantry carriers and a truck and entered the eastern town of Amvrosiyivka, not far from where Ukraine detained 10 Russian soldiers on Monday.
Ukraine released video footage on Tuesday of what it said were Russian soldiers captured on its territory, only hours before the presidents of the two countries were due to meet for the first time in months.
In Moscow, a military source told Russian news agencies that a group of soldiers had surrendered to Ukrainian forces after crossing the border by accident.
Russia has always denied assertions by Ukraine, backed by the United States and the European Union, that it has been sending arms and troops across the border to support pro-Moscow separatists. The rebels have been fighting Ukraine’s army since April in a war that has killed over 2,000 people and triggered Western sanctions against Russia.
Was it really humanitarian, or was it a weapons drop, troop evacuation, or both?
Several trucks from a Russian convoy that passed into Ukraine without permission from Kyiv have returned back across the border into Russia.
Witnesses said Saturday other trucks from the more than 220 vehicles that entered Ukraine Friday are arriving at the border, preparing to re-enter Russia. It is not clear if the trucks are carrying any cargo.
On Friday, White House officials said Russia’s unauthorized movement of the humanitarian truck convoy into Ukraine is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.