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“Doctors and electricians are just as important as tanks”

With her trip to Ukraine, Development Minister Schulze is sending two signals: Germany is helping the country rebuild. The second signal goes to Finance Minister Lindner: Your budget must therefore not be cut.

Sarah Beham

Nadine Bader

There are creaks and crashes, the night train journey starts at the Polish-Ukrainian border. Nine hours later, the golden towers of St. Michael's Monastery in Kiev shine in the sunlight. People sit outside in cafes. The mood – deceptive. Because there is war in the country, as evidenced by the shot-up, demolished cars and tanks that are visible to everyone on the square in front of the monastery. The military is omnipresent, sandbags, air alarm. People have learned to deal with war; it is their everyday life.

45 million euros for Power supply

Just one day before Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze's arrival in Kiev, Russia launched a massive attack on Ukraine with drones and missiles. The goal: to destroy the country's electricity supply. The sirens also sounded during Schulze's visit to Kiev. She came here anyway. Schulze wants to help rebuild the energy infrastructure: 45 million euros will be used to repair damaged parts of the Ukrainian power grid and modernize lines.

But does it make sense to invest in infrastructure that is being destroyed again by Russia? Yes, says Schulze, because the Ukrainians are building according to a new strategy: “It is much more difficult to destroy decentralized structures, i.e. decentralized wind turbines, solar systems – Ukraine has now built a lot of them.”

The dilemma of reconstruction

Reconstruction forms the central theme of Schulze's journey – and poses a dilemma: Around eleven million Ukrainians are either at the front, displaced within the country or have fled abroad and are therefore missing from the reconstruction of the country.

For Schulze, it's about more than money, about more than weapons: “Skilled workers are needed here to restore electricity, to ensure that water flows, that people can continue to live their lives here. And the doctors and electricians here are at least as important as the tanks.”

Klitschko: A “senseless war”

The cooperation between Germany and Ukraine is therefore also aimed at training in the country: new craftsmen, engineers, electricians. And the development minister's trip is, above all, preparation for the reconstruction conference for Ukraine. It will be organized jointly by Germany and Ukraine in Berlin in June. Schulze's goal: to win new supporters for Ukraine – especially for the Ukrainian municipalities. They could promote reconstruction.

For the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, reconstruction also means moving on. In his office, things are often almost unbearable in times of war, as he explains. When he has to struggle for the right words to tell parents about the death of their children. Klitschko then speaks of a “senseless war”. He points to the memorial wall of the fallen soldiers in Kiev with thousands of photos; many of them were younger than 30 years old. And he “hates” something else: “visiting hospitals, seeing soldiers who are seriously injured, who have amputated arms or legs.”

New Prosthesis workshop in Lviv

For Schulze, the suffering of the war became particularly clear on the second day of her trip to Ukraine. The minister traveled west from Kiev by train for around seven hours. In Lviv, the SPD politician visited a new prosthetics workshop and the rehabilitation center connected to it. Veterans, people who have lost legs or arms due to mines, grenades or collapsed buildings, receive help here. Germany supported the construction of the center with 1.8 million euros.

The problem: There are too many war injured people and not enough prosthesis mechanics. This is set to change with the new workshop – 60 new specialists will be trained here. The production of prostheses is to be increased threefold. Around 1,200 prostheses and orthoses can now be built here every year. This makes it the largest prosthesis workshop in Ukraine that Schulze inaugurated in Lviv. War injured people are treated in the associated rehabilitation center – psychologists, doctors, orthopedists and physiotherapists work hand in hand here.

Prosthesis mechanics are supposed to produce parts that will enable injured soldiers and civilians to walk again.

Savings rate: Development Minister is worried

At the end of her two-day visit to Ukraine it became clear: Minister Schulze wanted to send two signals with her trip. One thing to Ukraine: Germany is helping. The second thing to her colleague, Finance Minister Christian Lindner: This requires money. The SPD politician's visit to Ukraine is also being overshadowed by the looming budget dispute with the Federal Finance Minister from the FDP. He has ordered his departmental colleagues to take a rigid austerity course for the 2025 budget.

For Schulze and her house, Lindner's guidelines would entail bitter cuts. Schulze is demanding 12.2 billion euros for her budget next year, but her ministry should only receive 9.9 billion euros. This emerges from a letter from the Ministry of Development ARD capital studio is present. In order to continue to help Ukraine, the ministry reports a need for various measures: for example, clinical partnerships between German and Ukrainian hospitals, the reconstruction of energy infrastructure and support for internally displaced persons in the country.

Thousands of people have been seriously injured by the Russian attacks. Germany wants to help you with various measures.

NGOs warn

The development minister is unlikely to simply give in. Especially since the traffic light parties have written into the coalition agreement that they will spend at least 0.7 percent of national economic output on development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

Development aid organizations are already warning that this goal will probably not be achieved with Lindner's austerity targets. From Schulze's point of view, this is a fatal signal, also because the crises are increasing worldwide. “We are now in internal negotiations in the government,” says Schulze, “and Mr. Lindner also knows how important it is for us to support Ukraine. But of course I'm worried, I see what I can do less, when there is less money.”

You can find out more about the topic in the report from Berlin on Sunday, May 12th at 6 p.m. on Erste.

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