Category Archives: News/Stories

German WW1 Submarine emerges off French Coast

by BBC

The wreck of a World War One German submarine is gradually resurfacing on a beach in northern French after decades of being buried in the sand.

Shifting sand off Wissant, near Calais, is exposing the remains of the UC-61 which was stranded there in July 1917.

The crew flooded the vessel and abandoned it and by the 1930s the submarine had largely been buried.

It is now becoming a tourist attraction again, although the local mayor warns it may only be a fleeting visit.

Since December, two sections of the submarine have been visible at low tide about 330ft (100m) from the dunes.

“The wreck is visible briefly every two to three years, depending on the tides and the wind that leads to sand movements, but a good gust of wind and the wreck will disappear again,” said Mayor of Wissant Bernard Bracq.

However, local tour guide Vincent Schmitt believes the winds and tides could lead to even more of the UC-61 being exposed.

“All the residents of Wissant knew there was a submarine here, but the wreck is mostly silted and therefore invisible,” he said.

“Pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time we discover so much.”

German submarines, known as U-boats, targeted Allied shipping during World War One, sinking hundreds of vessels.

Historians say the UC-61 was credited with sinking at least 11 ships, either by laying mines or by firing torpedoes.

On its last journey, the submarine had left Zeebrugge in Belgium and was heading to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre to lay mines when it ran aground.

The 26 crewmen surrendered to French authorities.

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German army forms sixth tank battalion

by DW

The German army is growing for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Germany’s defense minister said the new tank battalion will help the country meet its NATO commitments.

The German army will be strengthened with a sixth tank battalion in response to rising security concerns in Europe, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.

“With this, the German army will grow for the first time in decades,” von der Leyen said at a military base near the western city of Münster.

The formation of the 363rd Tank Battalion will begin in October next year, with battalion staff and the first of four companies to be stationed at the Hardheim military base south of Frankfurt.

A second company will become active in October 2021, followed by the transfer of another two companies to Hardheim from bases in the states of Bavaria and Thuringia.

More than 100 Leopard 2 tanks are currently being upgraded, some of which will join the 363rd Panzer Battalion, von der Leyen said.

The formation of the 500 soldier-strong battalion comes as Germany increases its defense spending in response to security threats from Russia and pressure from the United States to meet NATO defense budget targets.

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Ukraine president asks Germany, NATO to send ships to Sea of Azov

by DW

NATO members including Germany have been asked to send naval vessels to the Sea of Azov to back Ukraine against Russia. “Germany is one of our closest allies,” President Petro Poroshenko said.

Ukraine’s president has sought to gain support from NATO states in his stand-off with Russia after the clash in the Sea of Azov off the Crimean coast.

“Germany is one of our closest allies, and we hope that states within NATO are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security,” President Petro Poroshenko told Germany’s Bild daily, suggesting Russia “wants nothing less than to occupy the sea.”

Naming German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a great friend of Ukraine, Poroshenko said that “in 2015, she already saved our country with her negotiations in Minsk, and we hope she will once again support us so strongly, together with our other allies.”

Poroshenko suggested that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, had major plans.

“Putin wants to bring back the old Russian Empire. Crimea, Donbas, he wants the whole country,” Poroshenko suggested. “As a Russian emperor, as he sees himself, his empire cannot function without Ukraine, he sees us as a colony.”

Chancellor Merkel with President Poroshenko at the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv.

Putin defiant

For his part, Putin accused Poroshenko on Wednesday of orchestrating a “provocation” to boost his flagging popularity ratings before an election next year. The latest opinion polls in Ukraine show only 9 or 10 percent support for the Ukrainian president.

Putin defended his forces’ actions in seizing three Ukrainian ships last weekend in the Sea of Azov. “They were fulfilling their military duty,” he said. “They were fulfilling their lawful functions in protecting Russia’s borders.”

Poroshenko has imposed martial law in parts of Ukraine for 30 days.

Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov.

‘Dangerous’

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, on Wednesday night issued a statement expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and dismay at the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia. It called on Russia to release the Ukrainian vessels and sailors it seized and ensure unrestricted sea access.

There was no mention of sanctions in the statement. The bloc is divided on imposing further measures against Moscow. Countries such as Italy, Greece, Belgium and Cyprus have been calling for a softer approach to Russia, as Germany and France have focused on measures to ease tensions. Only the three former Soviet states on the Baltic Sea — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — backed by Poland and the UK called for tougher language against Moscow.

US President Donald Trump told the New York Post on Wednesday that he “didn’t like” what was happening. He called on European leaders, especially Merkel, to “get involved.”

“Angela, let’s get involved Angela,” Trump said.

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Berlin’s East Side Gallery saved from property investors

by DW

The East Side Gallery now belongs to the Berlin Wall Foundation, which aims to protect the famous section of the former wall that divided the German capital.

There will be no further construction projects at Berlin’s East Side gallery, the 1.3-kilometer remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been covered with art, also known as the “world’s longest open-air gallery,” Berlin Wall Foundation director Axel Klausmeier said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Mediaspree, one of the largest property investors in Berlin, has had the strongest impact on the area surrounding the monument. Since the beginning of the 1990s, media companies, a large concert hall, as well as office buildings and a residential tower, were built around the East Side Gallery, while the bank of the Spree River behind the former section of the Berlin Wall was completely modernized.

Now the property surrounding the wall section has been transferred to the Berlin Wall Foundation and all development plans have been stopped. Berlin will contribute € 250,000 ($285,000) annually to the preservation of the monument and the maintenance of the area.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, 118 artists from all over the world were invited to paint what would become the East Side Gallery. In the years that followed, some of the works of art were removed; new ones emerged. The paintings that were most damaged by erosion and vandalism were renovated. Despite international protests, one section of the gallery was removed in 2013 to create luxury apartments.

A symbol of joy and oppression

The protected area is now to be expanded into an educational and artistic memorial. Every year, around three million visitors come to the East Side Gallery, but it so far lacked a professional infrastructure for tourists.

Among other things, an exhibition on the history of the section of the wall is being planned, said Klausmeier. It will commemorate it on one hand as “a symbol of how the German division was peacefully overcome and on the other hand as a testimony of the inhuman border regime.” At least 10 people were killed between 1961 and 1989 trying to cross this section of the wall.

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Germany opens new military camp in Niger

The German defense minister has called Niger a strategic partner “in the fight against terrorism, organized crime and illegal migration.” Nearly 900 German troops are deployed in the Sahel region, including 40 in Niger.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday opened a new Bundeswehr camp in the Niger capital of Niamey.

“Niger, like Mali and the other countries of the Sahel region, is part of the European neighborhood, a neighborhood facing unending challenges,” von der Leyen said. Niger “is a valuable, reliable and determined partner in the fight against terrorism, organized crime and illegal migration in the region.”

During her visit, von der Leyen handed over 53 military transport vehicles to Niger Defense Minister Kalla Moutari as part of an “upgrade initiative” aimed at bolstering the country’s military capabilities.

Germany is also developing other defense-related projects in Niger, including building an officer training school and expanding the military section of the capital’s airport.

Niger forms part of the G5 Sahel group (G5S), a regional security initiative that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. The initiative was born out of regional instability triggered by an Islamist insurgency and coup in Mali in 2012.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen made clear Niger is a strategic partner for Berlin, especially when it comes to regional challenges that pose a threat to Europe.

Strategic deployment

Germany’s 40 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in Niger’s capital, Niamey, comprise part of the country’s contingent for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The deployment in Niamey mainly consists of troops from the air force and medical service. More than 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed as part of the UN mission.

About 1,000 German soldiers are deployed for the mission, with some working on intelligence gathering and support in the region.

In March, Berlin signaled its intention to bolster its contingent in the peacekeeping mission and further support France’s counterterrorism force operating the region.

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WWI centenary: Merkel and Macron visit WWI memorial

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French counterpart marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by unveiling a plaque at Rethondes. Leaders from 67 countries are set to join the weekend’s commemorations.

The leaders of Germany and France on Saturday made a pilgrimage to Rethondes, the Glade of the Armistice, the place where the document was signed a century ago to end World War I.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron took part in a memorial ceremony at the Compiegne forest, 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of Paris.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, an initial agreement to end four years of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts was signed by the Allies and Germany in a train carriage in a nearby forest clearing, from where the two leaders on Saturday held a symbolic repeat signing ceremony.

Merkel and Macron then watched as the French and German militaries held a joint march to remember the 1.4 million French and 2 million German soldiers killed in the 1914-1918 war.

Saturday’s meeting was the first since 1945 between French and German heads of state at the location where the armistice was signed.

War to end all wars’

The ‘Great War’ mobilized some 70 million military personnel as two European alliances fought a war that, at the time, wrought death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.

Some 40 million people were killed or injured in World War I — as many as 11 million of them were military personnel.

Earlier on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the weekend’s solemn events with a visit to a cemetery in northern France containing the remains of 820 Canadian casualties from the 1914-1918 conflict.

Trudeau is one of 67 heads of state due to take part in the commemorations in France, which culminates with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Paris on Sunday morning. Two minutes of silence will be held around the world to remember those killed and wounded.

US President Donald Trump failed to make his planned visit to a US war cemetery outside Paris on Saturday due to “logistical difficulties caused by the weather,” according to the White House. There was slight rain falling in the area.

Steinmeier in London

Further armistice commemorations are being held all over the world this weekend, including in London, where on Sunday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will become the first German head of state to take part in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph war memorial.

Steinmeier will join Queen Elizabeth and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the solemn observance, which will be followed by a service at Westminster Abbey.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, was due to visit US military cemeteries in northern France on Saturday and Sunday, where many of the 110,000 American dead out of 4 million US troops mobilized during World War I are buried.

Trump met Macron at the Elysee Palace earlier on Saturday, shortly after blasting his French counterpart’s plans to launch a European army as “very insulting.”

The pair later played down any differences over the new European defense plan, with Macron insisting it was in line with Trump’s repeated demands for European countries to pull their weight more in the Western military alliance NATO.

Serbia holds war games

Serbia, which is sometimes wrongly accused of starting World War I after a Serb nationalist assassinated the Austrian archduke in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 1914, was holding large military drills on Saturday to mark the armistice centenary.

Commenting on the drill that involved some 8,000 troops, Serbian strongman Aleksandar Vucic said he was “overjoyed” by the display. He also announced more state investment into the armed forces and more armored transporters supplied by its traditional ally, Russia.

“I am very happy – everyone has seen the ground trembling with MiGs flying above, and when those 250-kilo (551 lb) bombs hit, half the hill was shaking,” he told the Serbian national broadcaster.

The live-ammunition maneuvers, dubbed “The Century of Winners,” are widely seen as a show of force amid rising tensions with neighboring Kosovo.

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