Can you punish a church leader for his political stance? Hungary says no and blocks EU sanctions. For the first time ex-Chancellor Merkel talks about the Ukraine war. The developments:

The new EU sanctions package against Russia because of the war of aggression against Ukraine cannot come into force due to another objection from Hungary.

The government in Budapest is demanding that the planned punitive measures against Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, be scrapped. This was confirmed by several diplomats in Brussels from the German Press Agency. The way out of this diplomatic blockade was initially unclear on Thursday.

In the east of Ukraine, meanwhile, Russian troops continued their gradual conquest of the city of Sieyverodonetsk. The Ukrainian military, on the other hand, reported the recapture of 20 towns in the occupied Cherson region in the south. Ukraine enters the 99th day of the war on Thursday. The federal government not only promised the beleaguered country state-of-the-art anti-aircraft weapons. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also said he was counting on rapid delivery by the German armaments industry.

Hungary blocks sanctions against church leaders

According to the will of the other EU states, Patriarch Kirill should be included on the sanctions list because of his support for the Russian war of aggression. The 75-year-old church leader maintains close contact with President Vladimir Putin. In his sermons, he repeatedly supported the war policy and most recently claimed that Russia had never attacked another country.

The plan in Brussels was actually to initiate the decision-making process for the sixth package of sanctions on Wednesday. An agreement had been reached in the dispute over the planned oil embargo on Tuesday night after a long dispute. Hungary pushed through that oil deliveries by pipeline are initially excluded.

Specifically, sanctions against Kirill would mean that the cleric would no longer be allowed to enter the EU. Possibly existing assets would be frozen. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had already expressed concerns at the beginning of May. “Hungary will not consent to treating church leaders in such a manner,” he said. “For reasons of principle, this is an even more important matter than the oil embargo.”

Russian advance in the east

The Ukrainian military has admitted that Russian troops have had “partial success” in battles in the embattled city of Sieverodonetsk in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. The enemy is in control of the eastern part of the city, the general staff said on Wednesday evening. The storm on the big city continues, it was said. The pro-Russian separatists claimed they had already taken control of more than 70 percent of the city.

Sieverodonetsk is the administrative center in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Luhansk region. The city has been fighting for weeks. Should Russian troops capture the city, they would have complete control over the Luhansk region. The capture of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions is one of the goals set by Putin.

According to military information, the Ukrainian army recaptured 20 occupied towns in the Kherson region. About half of the population had fled from these villages, it said. The information could not be independently verified. However, for days there have been reports of advances by the Ukrainian army in the south. Several Russian missiles are believed to have landed in Stryi in western Ukraine on Wednesday evening. According to initial reports, five people were injured.

Modern anti-aircraft defense from Germany for Ukraine

Chancellor Scholz announced in the Bundestag on Wednesday that he would deliver the Iris-T air defense system from the German manufacturer Diehl to Ukraine. There is also a tracking radar that can be used to detect artillery positions. The latter is likely to be the Cobra system. Scholz did not give an exact delivery date. “But there is no more obstacle now.” According to information from government circles, four Mars II multiple rocket launchers from Bundeswehr stocks are also to be delivered by the end of June. Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk welcomed the announcement.

In her first public speech in about six months, former Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack on Ukraine a “profound caesura”. Merkel said in Berlin that she did not want to make any assessments from the sidelines. But Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country marks a blatant breach of international law. “My solidarity is with Ukraine, which was attacked and invaded by Russia, and in support of their right to self-defense.” She supports efforts by the federal government, the EU, the USA, NATO, the G7 and the UN “to stop this barbaric war of aggression by Russia”.

Poland and Ukraine are examining joint armaments factories

Poland promised further aid to the neighboring country during a visit by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Kyiv. His country was also asked to help export Ukrainian grain. According to Kiev, it was agreed during the consultations to examine the establishment of joint armaments companies. This will take military cooperation to a new level, said Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Morawiecki and his deputy Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s national-conservative ruling party PiS, also spoke to President Volodymyr Zelenskyj.

That brings the day

While Brussels is looking for ways to overcome the Hungarian veto, the security situation in Eastern Europe is being discussed in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. The most prominent speakers at the Globsec Forum Bratislava 2022 on the very first day include EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Selenskyj, who joined via video conference.