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Ex German Chancellor pictured embracing Putin

Once one of the most prominent European leaders, Germany's former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, is facing heavy criticism after photographs showing the retired leader in a warm embrace with Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Credit: Reuters

The German government and media distanced themselves from the ex Chancellor.

Der Spiegel, a national magazine, published the photographs along with a commentary that said: "Schroeder celebrates his birthday with Putin and makes Germany's foreign policy look absurd."

Mr Schroeder's office had no comment on the pictures, which according to the media reports were taken on Monday evening outside the Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg where he was attending a belated celebration of his 70th birthday.

Read: EU expands Russia sanctions amid Ukraine crisis

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US homeowner shoots dead student in 'burglar trap'

A US homeowner who laid a trap in his garage to catch burglars has been charged with murder after shooting dead a 17-year-old German exchange student who lived in the neighbourhood, NBC Montana reported.

The neighbourhood in Missoula County, Montana, where a German exchange student was shot dead.
The neighbourhood in Missoula County, Montana, where a German exchange student was shot dead. Credit: NBC Montana

Markus Kaarma, 29, and his wife Janelle Pflager rigged their garage with motion sensors and a baby monitor before leaving the door open with a handbag on display in a bid to entice thieves following a spate of break-ins, court documents claim.

Diren Dede, of Hamburg, was shot twice and later died at a local hospital.

Kaarma told police he found an intruder in his garage after an alarm went off early on Sunday morning and shot him with a shotgun.

According to prosecutors Kaarma reportdly told his hairdresser he had been waiting up for three nights "so he could shoot a kid".

Germany warns Ukraine crisis 'must not divide Europe'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned the international community must not allow the Ukraine-Russia crisis to create a new division of Europe.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaking in Ukraine's capital Kiev.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaking in Ukraine's capital Kiev. Credit: RTV

Speaking at a briefing in Kiev after talks with Ukraine's Prime Minister Arsenyi Yatsenyuk, Steinmeier said he hoped the first OSCE monitors would arrive in Ukraine to support de-escalation efforts in the next couple of days.

Read: Russia agrees for security monitors to go to Ukraine

Germany condemns Turkish Twitter ban

Angela Merkel with Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to 'wipe out' Twitter in his country.
Angela Merkel with Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to 'wipe out' Twitter in his country. Credit: Sandra Steins/DPA

Germany has joined a host of voices criticising Turkey's ban on Twitter.

"It doesn't fit with our idea of freedom of expression to forbid or block any form of communication," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman said.

Turkey's courts blocked access to Twitter following Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's vow, on the campaign trail ahead of March 30 local elections, to "wipe out" the service.

He says he does not care what the international community says about it, though President Abdullah Gul has objected to his actions.

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Merkel: Russian tensions mean G8 does not exist

The current tension with Russia means that the G8 does not exist at the moment the German Chancellor said.

Angela Merkel said that her government had not yet decided if scheduled German-Russian consultations will take place in April.

She also confirmed that EU leaders will agree further sanctions against Russia at a summit beginning today.

Read more: EU leaders expected to extend Russian sanctions

Germany issues warning to Russia over Crimea vote

Germany's foreign minister said should the Crimea independence referendum be followed by steps to absorb the region into Russia, the EU will be forced to consider a further, third stage of sanctions.

Members of a pro-Russian self defence unit pick up boots after an oath swearing ceremony to the Crimea regional government.
Members of a pro-Russian self defence unit pick up boots after an oath swearing ceremony to the Crimea regional government. Credit: REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that Russia had so far rebuffed all European proposals to defuse the standoff in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

He said European states over the weekend would draw up a list of Russians who will be subject to visa restrictions and asset freezes as part of initial sanctions already agreed within the EU.

Bayern Munich president sentenced for tax evasion

A German court has sentenced Bayern Munich's president Uli Hoeness to three and half years in jail for tax evasion.

Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness Credit: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

Prosecutors had argued that Hoeness's voluntary disclosure - that he had failed to pay taxes - was incomplete and thus did not meet a vital requirement needed for amnesty under German tax laws designed to encourage tax evaders to come clean.

Hoeness has admitted he evaded 27.2 million euros in taxes on income earned in secret Swiss bank accounts.

The 62-year-old football manager was hoping for leniency in one of the most closely watched tax evasion cases in German history.

Cameron to double investment in digital technology

German chancellor Angela Merkel and David Cameron together at the opening of the expo in Hanover.

Research funding to use the internet to improve everyday devices - such as fridges which can order more milk when it runs low - is to be doubled in a drive to make the UK a world leader in digital technology, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister announced an extra £45 million to develop the so-called "internet of things" as he arrived in Germany for the CeBIT 2014 trade fair.

He is attending the event in Hanover - where he is holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel - as Britain is the official "partner country" of the event.

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