Ukraine’s parliament has voted to drop the country’s non-aligned status and work towards Nato membership.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the move “counterproductive” and said it would boost tensions.
The BBC’s David Stern in Kiev says it is not clear when Ukraine will apply for Nato membership and many officials see it as a distant prospect.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pledged to seek Nato membership over Russian support for rebels in the east.
Part II of Der Spiegel’s coverage of the dangerous popularity of Germany’s anti-Islam movement.
At least one of Saxony’s great citizens, the author Karl May, exhibited a considerable talent for imagining foreign, threatening worlds. His novels, which have sold millions of copies around the world, are crawling with what he calls Musulmans dazzling infidels with their swords or simply dispatching them straight to hell.
Many Dresden residents also let their imaginations run wild at the Monday protests. One demonstrator says that he doesn’t want to see his granddaughters being forced to wear headscarves in the future, while another suggests that Islamists would be better off seeking asylum in wealthy, oil-producing countries. A woman complains that she can’t afford to buy a smartphone, but that the refugees can.
Lutz Bachmann has brought them together. The impetus for his movement, he says, was a walk through Dresden’s post-Socialist Prager Strasse shopping district. He witnessed a rally by supporters of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which opposes the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. His reaction was to start a Facebook group, primarily to oppose arms shipments to the PKK.
It was only a handful of people who showed up for the first demonstration in October. Today PEGIDA has more than 44,000 Facebook fans. By contrast, the state chapter of Merkel’s conservative CDU party, which has been in office for 24 years, has only managed to drum up 661 Facebook fans.
PEGIDA is the group that Chancellor Merkel calls “Neo Nazis in Pinstripes”.
Disenchanted German citizens and right-wing extremists are joining forces to form a protest movement to fight what they see as the Islamization of the West. Is this the end of the long-praised tolerance of postwar Germany?
Felix Menzel is sitting in his study in an elegant villa in Dresden’s Striesen neighborhood on a dark afternoon in early December. He’s thinking about Europe. A portrait of Ernst Jünger, a favorite author of many German archconservatives is hung on the wall.
Menzel, 29, is a polite, unimposing man wearing corduroys and rimless glasses. He takes pains to come across as intellectual, and avoids virulent rhetoric like “Foreigners out!” He prefers to talk about “Europe’s Western soul,” which, as he believes, includes Christianity and the legacy of antiquity, but not Islam. “I see serious threats coming our way from outside Europe. I feel especially pessimistic about the overpopulation of Africa and Asia,” says Menzel, looking serious. “And I believe that what is unfolding in Iraq and Syria at the moment is a clear harbinger of the first global civil war.”
Menzel, a media scholar, has been running the Blaue Narzisse (Blue Narcissus), a conservative right-wing magazine for high school and university students, for the last 10 years. His small magazine had attracted little interest until now. But that is about to change, at least if Menzel has his way. “The uprising of the masses that we have long yearned for is slowly getting underway,” he writes on his magazine’s website. “And this movement is moving toward the right.”
A half-built mosque in the northwestern German town of Dormagen has been spray painted with swastikas and racist slogans. The act of vandalism comes as anti-Islamic demonstrations continue to grow across Germany.
The perpetrators are reported to have entered the building site late Saturday/early Sunday morning. As well as the symbol associated to Nazis, the vandals also wrote slurs such as “off with you to the concentration camp!”
The attack on the mosque has coincided with the rise of the controversial “anti-Islamization” PEGIDA movement in Germany. The group has been holding demonstrations in cities throughout the country for the past 10 weeks.
Council members agreed with the Federal Medical Council (Bundesärztekammer) that doctors should not routinely be asked to help patients commit suicide.
But they argued that in “exceptional circumstances”, decisions of conscience by a doctor in the context of a “trusting doctor-patient relationship” should be respected.
The decision is a blow to a cross-party initiative to legalize the practice put forward by Bundestag vice-president Peter Hintze of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) deputy leader Carola Reimann.
“Terminally ill people must have the right to ask their doctor to help end their life in hopeless situations”, the politicians said on Friday.
Momentum is building for a resumption of peace talks on Ukraine, after the European Union and United States noted an apparent softening of Russia’s stance towards the Kiev government and its conflict with pro-Moscow separatists.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said a preparatory video conference should take place today and tomorrow between representatives of Kiev, Moscow, the rebels in eastern Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. “I hope this group will be able to meet on Sunday in Minsk,” Mr Poroshenko said during a visit to Poland.
He made the announcement after a four-way call with the Russian, French and German leaders, in which the Kremlin said they agreed that talks on “implementing the Minsk pact” should resume “as soon as possible.” An agreement reached in the Belarusian capital in early September reduced but failed to halt clashes in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where fighting since April has killed more than 4,600 people and displaced about 1 million.
President Vladimir Putin addressed Russia’s currency crisis for the first time, saying it would take as long as two years to emerge from its economic woes, as he blamed external factors for the rouble’s rout but acknowledged that more should have been done to diversify the struggling economy.
Speaking at his annual press conference on Thursday, Mr Putin also said capital controls were not being planned and that the economy, which is being pummelled by falling oil prices and western sanctions over Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, would adapt to its new reality. Despite the economic turmoil, Mr Putin remained defiant over Russia’s foreign policy and his stance on the Ukraine crisis.
“The economy will adjust to life and work in the conditions of the low oil prices,” he said. “If prices will be low — $60 per barrel, $40 per barrel even, the figure doesn’t matter — the economy will restructure. The question is how quickly the adjustment will happen.”
Well, it looks like Russia is in for a long, cold, and economically devastating winter.
With its currency stuck in a disastrous freefall thanks to Western sanctions and plunging oil prices, the country’s central bank announced around 1 a.m. last night that it would jack up its key interest rate from 10.5 percent to 17 percent. This was a desperate decision. The country was already hurtling toward a recession, and the rate hike—the biggest since 1998, when a financial crisis eventually forced it into default on its debt—was sure to make the pain far worse. But the hope was that, with higher interest rates, investors would finally stop pulling their money out of the country—that, as the New York Times’s Neil Irwin put it, keeping money at a Russian bank would simply be “too good an offer to refuse.”
Angela Merkel has warned ordinary Germans not to be taken in by the far-right rhetoric of so-called “Nazis in pinstripes”, after 10,000 people marched in Dresden on Monday night to protest against “Islamisation”.
The demonstrations have been staged weekly by the Pegida group - or the “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”. But their numbers are seemingly being bolstered by more politically neutral members of the public speaking out against increasing immigration.
Around 5,700 anti-Pegida protesters also turned out last night to stand up for the benefits migrant workers have brought to Germany. Despite growing tensions on both sides, no significant incidents of violence or disruption were reported.
Russia will take counter measures if Washington imposes new sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday.
The U.S. Congress has readied new sanctions on Russian weapons companies and investors in the country’s high-tech oil projects, but U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to sign a corresponding bill into law.
“We will not be able to leave that without an answer,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying. He did not say what form of counter-measure Moscow might take.