Poland marks 70th anniversary of end of WWII
By VANESSA GERA4 hours ago WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president led international commemorations late Thursday and into Friday marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a gathering meant as an alternative celebration to Moscow’s Red Square parade this weekend.Related Stories
President Bronislaw Komorowski was joined by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, European Council President Donald Tusk, who is Polish, and the presidents of Ukraine and several Central European countries for a ceremony that began just before midnight on the Westerplatte peninsula in Gdansk. That is the site of some of the first shots fired by Germany against Poland at the start of the war on Sept. 1, 1939.The ceremony began so late so that it would continue into Friday, exactly 70 years after Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.Light beams illuminated a monument to the Polish defenders of Westerplatte to the playing of the Polish national anthem and a gun salute.Then Komorowski, a member of the pro-democracy Solidarity movement during the communist era, spoke of how Poland suffered under the domination of two totalitarian systems during the war, Germany and the Soviet Union, and of how the war’s end also marked the start of decades of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe.It’s a very different reading of history from that promoted in Russia, which tends to stress only the heroic actions of Soviet troops during the war. Russia is preparing to celebrate the Victory Day holiday with great pomp on Saturday.Foreign leaders taking part in a ceremony marking 70 years since the end of World War II, light cand …Recently Moscow has accused Warsaw of trying to deprive Russians of credit for their huge sacrifices in defeating Adolf Hitler.Komorowski originally organized the ceremonies in Gdansk in reaction to the deep divisions between the West and Russia over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. They were meant to give Western leaders a chance to pay homage to the Allied victory over Nazi Germany without traveling to Moscow.Komorowski also criticized Russia for changing borders in Europe with its annexation of Crimea.”This is something that hasn’t been practiced since 1939,” he said. „There can be no acceptance of such a practice. These anachronistic attitudes will not stop the aspirations of peoples to decide their own destiny.”Though many Western leaders are boycotting Saturday’s Moscow commemorations, they also mostly did not travel to the commemorations in Poland, perhaps in an effort not to anger the Kremlin as the West encourages a tenuous peace deal between Ukraine and Russia.Before the main ceremony, the U.N. leader met with Komorowski and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. In a statement, the U.N. said Ban „encouraged the sides to swiftly and fully implement” the measures of the peace deal for Ukraine agreed on in Minsk, Belarus.Later, Ban told a panel at a conference on the war that the anniversary holds special importance to the U.N. because „our organization was founded on the ashes of this calamitous war that claimed the lives of millions of fellow human beings.”
Ukraine’s Poroshenko slams ‘appeasement’ of Moscow4 hours ago(From L-R) President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attend a panel debate on the legacy of World War II in Gdansk on May 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski) Related Stories
Gdansk (Poland) (AFP) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday criticised what he termed a policy of appeasement towards Russia in the context of the separatist conflict in Ukraine’s east.”Crimes are committed today in the 21st century amid the aggression against my country Ukraine, despite the cruelest lessons of the past,” Poroshenko said in the Polish port city of Gdansk.He was speaking at ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II that were attended by leaders including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU President Donald Tusk.”Astonishingly, we see attempts to appease the attackers,” he continued, without specifying the events or people responsible for the policy.Poroshenko also slammed Russia’s upcoming May 9 World War II victory parade in Moscow as a „parade of cynicism”.”The European Union is facing the most difficult challenge in its history,” Poroshenko said. „A test of its unity, its solidarity, its fundamental principles.”Europe and the United States have slapped the toughest sanctions since the Cold War on Moscow over allegations that it is behind the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.The country’s warring parties tried to shore up a faltering truce deal Wednesday after Kiev said five soldiers were killed in clashes in the war-torn east.The move came as US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday that pro-Russian separatists appeared to be making preparations for a fresh offensive.
EU says no further delay on Ukraine trade deal 10 hours agoBrussels (AFP) – The EU said Thursday it would not bow to Russian demands to delay further the planned January 2016 implementation of a free trade deal with Ukraine which is bitterly opposed by Moscow.”The date is the first of January next year,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said.”It is not for Russia to decide,” Malmstroem said, adding that the 28-nation European Union has been very clear on the issue.The free trade accord is part of the broader 2014 EU Association Agreement at the heart of the Ukraine crisis and was originally due to come into effect in January this year.In September, however, the EU postponed implementation for a year to support peace efforts as a first Ukraine ceasefire accord was negotiated.In return, Russia promised to hold off on the retaliation it had threatened if the EU and Ukraine had gone ahead with the trade pact without resolving its concerns.Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov in Brussels, on September 30, 2009 (AFP Photo/John Thy …Russia claims that what is known as the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement will damage its own important economic ties and interests in its Soviet-era satellite.Several rounds of talks between EU, Ukraine and Russian officials have been held but no progress has been reported.”We are willing to talk on practical difficulties with the Russians, we will do so, there will be a ministerial meeting later this month to find practical solutions,” Malmstroem aid.She announced later Thursday the three parties would meet on May 18 at ministerial level in Brussels.Russia’s ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said earlier this week that Moscow’s request for another DCFTA delay was „not met with great enthusiasm” although its concerns „have been taken on board.”An EU diplomat said that at talks last month Russia had asked for a delay to 2017 and had threatened retaliation against Ukrainian goods if it was not agreed.Moscow had been told that was out of the question but at the same time, „we do not want to break the contact with the Russians,” the diplomat said.The EU is also involved in separate, equally difficult talks with Kiev and Moscow on ensuring Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, and onward to Europe, are secured for the coming winter.
Nine months in, Congress mute on Obama’s war against the Islamic StateNine months in, Congress mute on Obama’s war against the Islamic State Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, left, has sought to rally GOP support for a use-of-force resolution. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)Nine months after American bombs first rocked Islamic State targets in the Middle East, a small group of U.S. lawmakers is making what may be their last attempt to get Congress to vote on explicitly authorizing the military campaign. They will have to overcome an unhelpful White House that insists it already has all the authority it needs, a difficult congressional schedule, wary Republican leaders who don’t seem especially keen to put a GOP stamp of approval on President Barack Obama’s war, and a U.S. public that isn’t exactly clamoring for Congress to step in.From the outside, their odds of success don’t look good.“The view from the inside doesn’t look much better than the view from the outside,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a tireless advocate for Congress finding its voice on the issue, recently told Yahoo News.But to those like Schiff who want to see a vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), it’s a must-have debate about whether Congress will passively accept that the president — any president, including the one chosen in 2016 — can deploy American forces for combat overseas anytime, anyplace, without lawmakers’ input.
Tim Kaine, right, and Adam Schiff have both pressed for Congress to formally authorize force against the Islamic State group. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)“We are now at the end of nine months of a unilateral executive war, and Congress has not said a word about it,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told Yahoo News in an interview on Wednesday. “It creates such a horrible precedent.”Senate Foreign Relations Committee members of both parties have been sharing legislative language that they hope will help overcome resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike to the draft AUMF Obama sent to Congress. They aim to forge a bipartisan consensus that reflects the broad national agreement on the need to take on the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS.“We have begun those conversations,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Yahoo News by telephone Thursday. But he warned against moving forward with legislation that could not command broad bipartisan support. “Right now, I don’t think there’s anybody who thinks the U.S. is divided on ISIS … I don’t want a vote to show division in our country,” he said.Kaine, who has argued for a formal AUMF vote since mid-2014, told Yahoo News that “the worst thing is to do nothing, and the close-second worst thing is doing this in a partisan way.”There is bipartisan agreement on two things at least. First, the AUMF proposal Obama grudgingly submitted six months after the fighting began can’t pass in its current form. Second, the White House has washed its hands of the debate.“The president isn’t opposed to an AUMF; he just doesn’t care about it. He’s not going to lift his little finger to do anything about it,” Corker charged.Asked on May 1 what the administration would do to help pass Obama’s AUMF, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “I think we’ve done just about everything that is imaginable that an executive branch can do to try to move a law through the Congress.” He went on to accuse Congress of having been “essentially AWOL,” the military acronym for “absent without leave.”
UK’s Cameron on track to return to power as PM: exit pollBy David Milliken and Kate Holton5 hours ago WSJ Live Cameron On Track To Stay in Power, Say Exit PollsWSJ Video Cameron On Track To Stay in Power, Say Exit Polls LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives are on track to govern Britain for another five years even though they are likely to fall just short of an outright majority at Thursday’s election, an exit poll showed.The poll gave the Conservatives 316 of 650 seats in the lower house of parliament and the main opposition Labour Party 239. If accurate, that would be one of centre-left Labour’s worst ever results.Conservative government minister Michael Gove said that if the exit poll proved correct „the Conservatives have clearly won this election”.Such a result means Britain is likely to face a historic in-out European Union membership referendum in the next two years and that billions of pounds will be cut from government spending to eliminate the budget deficit in the world’s fifth largest economy.Sterling jumped to a one-week high after the poll. The pound jumped nearly 2 U.S. cents to $1.5430 in early Australasian trade, hitting its strongest since April 30.UK election exit polls have a good track record but the large number of parties competing this time has raised the potential for error. It will be well into Friday before final results are announced.The poll, conducted for Britain’s national broadcasters, suggests Cameron will have multiple options to form a government, perhaps with the support of either the Liberal Democrats, his current coalition partners, or Northern Irish unionists or both. He could also try and go it alone.STUNNING SCOTTISH FORECAST The same poll said the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 58 of Scotland’s 59 seats, all but wiping Labour out in its former stronghold.Opponents fear the SNP is preparing to use an emphatic win to renew its push for an independence referendum even though it lost such a plebiscite only last year.SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the exit poll’s prediction should be treated with huge caution. But even if the final tally is a little lower it would still be the nationalists’ best result in a UK-wide election by a huge margin.The centrist Liberal Democrats, who have governed in coalition with the Conservatives for the past five years, will finish with just 10 seats, the exit poll said. If confirmed, that would represent a disaster for leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.The UK Independence Party, which wants an immediate British withdrawal from the EU and enjoyed a poll surge last year, was on track to get just two seats.A separate poll of Britons who had already voted by YouGov extrapolated a more even result however, putting the Conservatives on 284 seats and Labour on 263, the Liberal Democrats on 31 and the Scottish Nationalists on 48.Before the election, opinion polls had shown the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck, leaving that industry facing a potential inquest.If the main exit poll is accurate, Cameron’s position as Conservative leader, which had been looking shaky before the election, would be secure. By exceeding expectations he could expect to quell dissent within his party.Conversely, the result would be a crushing defeat for Labour and Ed Miliband, its leader.Even if the centre-left party got together with the left-leaning Scottish nationalists and the Greens the exit poll suggested it would still be well short of the 326 seats needed for a majority in parliament.Miliband, who was widely perceived to have performed better in the campaign than expected, would be likely to come under pressure to step down as leader.The country’s mostly right-wing press has long criticised him for being socially-awkward and presiding over what it has described as a dangerous lurch to the left.Cameron has pledged to eliminate Britain’s budget deficit, now running at 5 percent of gross domestic product, by 2018/19, including through cuts to welfare spending of 12 billion pounds ($18.3 billion).(Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Writing by Andrew Osborn. Editing by Mike Peacock)
Philippines alarmed over China aircraft challenges in disputed sea May 6, 2015 8:12 PMA China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off near the Second Thomas Shoal — a remote reef in the South China Sea claimed by both countries — on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)The Philippines expressed alarm Thursday over what it said were escalating Chinese efforts to drive off Filipino aircraft from a disputed South China Sea island garrisoned by Manila, in dangerous confrontations.Related Stories
Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez said seven Filipino patrol planes on separate flights between Thitu island and Chinese-held Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands had been warned to stay away in radio messages from Chinese forces on Subi.”Recently this area has been the source of air challenges to our aircraft landing and departing from Pagasa island,” he told a hearing of the senate national defence committee, using the Filipino name for the Philippine-garrisoned Thitu.The Philippine military last week reported an incident involving a Fokker plane which was challenged by a Chinese vessel on April 19. But Lopez, commander of Filipino forces in the South China Sea, said there had been six other warnings issued since then.All seven Filipino aircraft were addressed as „foreigner planes”, advised they were entering a Chinese „military area”, and told to leave to avoid to avoid a possible „misjudgement”, Lopez told reporters after the hearing.”We are navigating in international airspace and conducting normal patrols,” he quoted the Filipino pilots as replying. They did not alter their course.”Fear will bring you no good… The risk is always there, but that’s what we’re being paid for,” Lopez said.China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea, even reefs, shoals and cays close to the shores of its neighbours. The claims overlap those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.The Spratlys are considered a potential Asian flashpoint, and claimant nations have expressed alarm as China has embarked on massive reclamation activity. Lopez said surveillance showed Beijing was enlarging seven features of the Spratly group that it occupies, including Subi.Satellite photos last month showed a runway and harbour taking shape in one location which was little more than a reef when works began late last year.The admiral said the reclamation would potentially give China air and naval bases in the disputed region and house „thousands” of personnel.”These developments are disturbing to say the least, and alarming to say the most,” Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told the Senate hearing.Asked if the Philippines feared China would eventually try to seize Thitu, Gazmin told AFP: „We have a problem but we haven’t given up our claim to Pagasa. That remains ours.””I don’t think China is ready to go to war over small islands,” he added.
Exile or repression — Russian opposition faces tough choice By Anaïs Llobet23 hours ago Moscow (AFP) – The slogans on the placards ranged from the innocuous to the obscure but the response from the Russian authorities was swift and harsh.After several thousand marched last week through the Siberian city of Novosibirsk holding signs that included „Stop taking offence” the event organiser Artyom Loskutov was quickly jailed for 10 days and branded a „prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International.Loskutov, a performance artist who likes to poke fun at what he sees as the Russian authorities’ heavy-handed approach to dissent, stages his parody protest each year.But his failure to obtain permission landed him in jail.The clampdown on the demonstration is seen by observers as the latest example of what they call a concerted official campaign to stamp out any voices that might be seen as questioning the Kremlin’s tight grip.It’s in this atmosphere that many opposition activists and liberal-minded Russians are choosing to vote with their feet and leave their homeland rather than stay and risk prison or worse.Russia’s tiny opposition is still reeling from the brazen assassination of one of the country’s leading Kremlin critics, Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin in late February.Russian anti-fascist activists are arrested by policemen after holding a protest in Saint-Petersburg …Now some of the most vocal activists have packed up their bags in fear not only for themselves but for their families.- Intensifying crackdown -Yevgenia Chirikova — who mounted a high-profile campaign against the construction of a highway through a forest near Moscow in 2011 — said she had left Russia for Estonia last month fearing she may lose custody of her children in an intensifying crackdown.She followed in the footsteps of many others including prominent liberal-minded journalist Galina Timchenko, music critic Artemy Troitsky and Ivan Ninenko, former deputy head of Transparency International in Russia.”These and many other amazing people left the country over these past years, as the environment has grown increasingly more suffocating and hostile,” wrote Tanya Lokshina, Russia programme director at Human Rights Watch.”This exodus is a loss for Russia. These people were in fact Russia’s future, the future stolen from the Russian society by the powers that be.”People throw flowers on a road in Moscow on March 3, 2015 as a car transports the coffin of Russian …Despite Putin’s pledges to solve the murder of Nemtsov, pressure on opposition activists has been relentless.On April 16 — while President Vladimir Putin declared during a televised call-in that „the opposition has the right and opportunity to participate in the country’s political life” — armed police searched the offices of exiled Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s rights group, Open Russia, and confiscated its computers.The next day police knocked on the door of Natalia Pelevina, an activist with the RPR-Parnas opposition party that Nemtsov co-chaired.”Recently, they have begun targeting not only prominent opposition politicians but also ordinary activists,” said Pelevina.”They want to terrorise us, to force us to give up,” Pelevina told AFP. „Well, I am scared but I will never ever give up.”After the search at her apartment, Pelevina was declared a suspect in the so called „Bolotnaya case” that owes its name to a Moscow square, scene of mass protests on the eve of Putin’s inauguration to a third term in May 2012.Exiled Russian ex-billionaire and Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky looks on after delivering a …She risks being jailed for up to 16 years.- ‘Unite to succeed’ -Pelevina’s fellow political activist Narmina Akhmedly said that she was torn by her thoughts of leaving Russia and her desire to do good.”How can I help my country if I am not there?” she said.”But it became so hard, so terrifying to be in politics. We are so tiny in the face of the government machine. We must unite to have a chance to succeed,” the student said.Those who have chosen to stay are trying to do just that.Last month the opposition led by the 38-year-old anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny announced plans to form a democratic alliance and contest next year’s parliamentary polls as well as several local elections this fall.”Our number one task is to achieve political representation for people of democratic convictions who have not had their own party in the State Duma for the past 13 years,” Navalny wrote on his blog.Many are hugely sceptical, pointing to persistent divisions within the opposition and the Kremlin’s apparent readiness to tighten the screws even further.Konstantin Kalachev, head of the Political Expert Group, a think tank, estimated that up to 20 percent could potentially vote for an opposition candidate.”That’s enough to make it into the State Duma,” he said, noting that the local elections will be a major test for the newly-formed democratic alliance.But Julius von Freytag-Loringhoven, a Russia watcher at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, said that more opposition activists risk going into exile or face repression if they openly challenge Putin.”The future of the opposition does not depend on it, but on the Kremlin,” he said.
MOSCOW (AP) — A state-of-the-art Russian tank, which was shown to the public for the first time earlier this month, on Thursday ground to a halt during the final Victory Day rehearsal.The tank, T-14 Armata, is said to surpass all Western versions because of its remotely controlled cannon and the protection it offers to its crew. The T-14, which replaces the T-72 and T-90, is set to undergo trials next year.Weaponry was rolling across central Moscow Thursday morning in the dress rehearsal of the military parade on Red Square on May 9 as Russia commemorates the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.One of the eight T-14s suddenly stopped while others drove on. The engine was still rumbling but it wouldn’t move. After an attempt to tow it failed, the T-14 rolled away under its own steam about 15 minutes later.While the tank was stranded on the cobbled Red Square, the presenter commenting over the PA system said it was part of the training to „evacuate weaponry” and had been planned.The tank’s producer insisted that the T-14 did not break down.Alexei Zharich, deputy general director of the Uralvagonzavod factory, said on Twitter that the military were responsible for the way the rehearsal was held but insisted that the tank „was functioning properly and left on its own power.”
Orban to Germany: Hungary needs special taxes on industries 12 hours agoHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the annual meeting of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Budapest Business School in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, May 7, 2015. ( Zoltan Mathe/MTI via AP)BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister told German companies on Thursday that the government plans to maintain special taxes on industries because they’re needed to meet targets on the budget deficit and debt levels.Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledged that the taxes on the telecommunications, retail and other sectors were „detrimental” to German companies in Hungary, but said that they „must be kept.””Germans always prefer the predictable road to solutions which diverge from the norm,” Orban told members of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce. „Hungarians always like to do things differently.”Orban said Hungary’s unorthodox economic policies, including the special taxes, were bearing fruit, resulting in a growth rate of 3.6 percent last year, among the highest in Europe.Such growth „would not have been possible without the significant contribution of German companies operating here,” Orban said.Orban also said that while some other European countries were reducing their dependence on nuclear energy, Hungary would expand its only nuclear power plant because it was the cheapest source of energy for the country.While German Ambassador Lieselore Cyrus highlighted Hungary’s strict budget policy and said its economy seemed to be „heading in the right direction,” she also cited a survey by the chamber of commerce showing that Hungary had slipped as an investment destination in the view of German businesses, which also had more favorable opinions about other countries in the region.German companies employ around 300,000 people in Hungary, and Germany is the country’s main trading partner.
Gazprom sets December 2016 launch of Turkish Stream pipeline 8 hours agoView photoRussia’s gas giant Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller, attends a press conference in Moscow on June 16, 2014 (AFP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)Moscow (AFP) – Russian energy giant Gazprom announced Thursday that its new gas pipeline project Turkish Stream, supplying Russian gas to Turkey, will start operating in December next year.”An agreement has been reached on putting the Turkish Stream into service and starting gas supplies in December 2016,” Gazprom chief Alexei Miller was quoted as saying in a company statement after meeting Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz in Ankara.The Turkish Stream pipeline unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2014 will stretch around 1,100 kilometres (684 miles) to Turkey’s border with Greece, via the Black Sea.The pipeline is designed to offer an alternative route to shipping Russian gas via Ukraine.It replaces a scrapped plan to build a South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria to supply southern Europe while skirting Ukraine.Putin axed the South Stream plan in December as relations with Brussels nosedived over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.Gazprom has signed a preliminary accord with Turkey’s state energy firm Botas on building the Turkish Stream pipeline with a capacity of 63 billion cubic metres, the same as the defunct South Stream project.Russia plans to turn Turkey into a major transit hub for its gas heading to European countries, replacing its neighbour Ukraine.Russian media reported in March that negotiations between Moscow and Ankara on the price of the piped gas were deadlocked, possibly delaying the project.In Turkey, Russian gas will compete with that supplied by energy-rich ex-Soviet state Azerbaijan.Turkey and Azerbaijan in March officially launched the construction of the 1,850 kilometre overland Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) which by 2018 aims to provide 10 billion cubic metres of Azeri gas per year (bcma) to EU consumers and 6 bcma to Turkish customers.
German FM marks WWII anniversary at site of Stalingrad battle 10 hours agoGerman Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov lay wreaths at the site of the Battle of Stalingrad, near Volgograd, Russia, on May 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)Volgograd (Russia) (AFP) – Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday laid a wreath at the site of the Battle of Stalingrad as part of commemorations to mark 70 years since the defeat of Nazi forces in WWII.Related Stories
Berlin’s top diplomat, alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, paid his respects at a military cemetery near the Russian city of Volgograd — the modern name of Stalingrad — before signing a book of remembrance at the city’s memorial complex.The sombre event came as Moscow gears up for a massive military parade on Saturday to celebrate victory in World War II that has been snubbed by Western leaders due to tensions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.The savage five months of fighting for Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest battles in World War II and the eventual Soviet victory there marked a key turning point in the conflict.Well over a million people are believed to have died in the bloodshed at Stalingrad as Soviet forces halted and then turned the tide on the invading Nazi forces.”The suffering that the Nazi German forces inflicted on the population and soldiers here in Volgograd — formerly Stalingrad — was completely incomprehensible,” Steinmeier said.Russia and the West have been locked in their worst standoff since the Cold War after Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimea region last year and was accused of masterminding a brutal separatist conflict in the east.”For me, because of the crisis in Ukraine, it was especially important to come here as a sign of reconciliation and understanding,” Steinmeier said.”As complicated as things have been, as different as our opinions are on different issues, faced with the memory of Stalingrad we have to try as much as we can to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.”Lavrov for his part said that Moscow attached „particular importance to the increase in dialogue between Moscow and Berlin.”German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to visit Moscow a day after the Red Square victory parade on May 10 to lay a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier and hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.”We are pinning big hopes on the talks that are scheduled for the May 10 visit to Moscow by German Chancellor Angela Merkel,” Lavrov said.Merkel has played a lead role in trying to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and helped thrash out a fragile truce deal in February alongside the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and France.