#64: UK spy, Russian oil, tourists back
And the return of a great Balkan beats party
Hey there, 20 Percent readers!
Trench coats, midnight handovers, cross-border affairs. During the Cold War, Berlin was ground zero for intrigue and cloak-and-dagger operations. And legendary names like Markus Wolf and Gary Powers.
Berlin’s spies just aren’t as sexy as they once were. And they’ve become more amateur. Take David Ballantyne Smith, the British man who worked as a security guard at the British Embassy, who stands accused of photocopying documents and sharing internal information about the embassy with Russian intelligence. Smith allegedly sent security camera recordings to Russian agents and communicated by letter with a Russian general. Somehow, Berlin cops managed to bust Smith. He was extradited to the UK last Wednesday. In the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, he denied all of the nine charges against him. The Independent has the story.
More Berlin news below!
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, April 12
Received booster: 60% (59.8% Friday)
New cases in one day: 4,545 (4,974 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,412 (+6 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 659 (752.3 Friday)
🔴 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 15.7 (14.6 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 8.4% (8.7% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Deaf refugees pressured to leave Berlin
Berlin’s social affairs minister Katja Kipping (Die Linke) has come under fire for callous treatment of a group of 180 deaf refugees from Ukraine who arrived here at the end of February. After they were housed in Berlin for several weeks, the city’s refugee office (which falls under Kipping’s responsibility) told them they had to relocate to Cologne. Only 18 people relocated. Others protested after they were told to leave temporary residences. Some reported being sent from one government office to the next or not receiving their refugee cash allowance. Clara Belz of the Berlin Association for the Deaf, told taz newspaper: “There are traumatized and chronically ill people among them.” Belz said the children were being integrated at the school for the deaf in Westend, one of the few schools in Germany where they could receive instruction in their native Russian sign language. Ukrainian refugees have the right to remain in Berlin if they find a flat or a job or have relatives in the city. According to Belz, most have found a roof over their heads in the capital.
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Hooked on Russian oil
As the war in Ukraine drags on, voices demanding an embargo on Russian oil are getting louder. According a new report by the Berlin government (revealed by Tagesspiegel - Achtung, paywall) the city would be hit particularly hard by a suspension of the flow of Russian crude oil. 95 percent of the diesel, gasoline, heating oil and kerosene used in the city-state comes from a refinery in Schwedt, Brandenburg which imports oil exclusively via Russian pipelines. Germany has enough oil in its reserves to last for 200 days. In the case of an embargo, oil from non-Russian sources would have to be delivered via German ports in tankers — the switch could take months. A speed limit on the autobahn (and a lower limit in cities) could save billions of litres of oil per year but even in the current crisis, certain parties in the government (the FDP) refuse to budge on the issue.
No more Facebook pages?
Berlin’s data protection office has called on the Senat (city government) to shut down its Facebook fan pages. “Facebook pages cannot currently be operated in compliance with data protection laws,” Volker Brozio, acting head of the Berlin data protection commissioner's office, said Friday. He said the demand was backed by recent European and German court decisions, as well as a new report by the national data protection authorities. Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) and each city department runs its own Facebook page. Berlin’s social media staff have been especially active in recent weeks, posting information for Ukrainian refugees and Berlin’s efforts to accommodate them. Brozio says the pages must be shut down because public agencies “have a special responsibility and a role model function.”
Tourism bouncing back?
Berlin hotels say bookings for the upcoming Easter weekend are up to pre-pandemic levels, reports broadcaster RBB. The share of German guests has risen to around 70 percent, said Thomas Lengfelder, the local head of hospitality association Dehoga. Pre-corona, the split between domestic and international tourists was about 50-50. Meanwhile, BER airport expects up to 70,000 passengers per day over the weekend and is telling travellers to show up super early (at least two hours according to the BER site, but even that might be cutting if close if the 2021 autumn holidays are anything to go by) thanks to staff shortages and workers sick with corona. 🙄
Balkan beats at S036
At some point I got sick of Berlin techno, chanced upon this raucous Balkan night — and found pure unadulterated dancefloor madness. Diskoteka Balkanska is back after two years of corona. This Thursday at Kreuzberg’s epic SO36. The info.
Five years ago, thieves stole a 100 kilogram Canadian Big Maple Leaf gold coin from the Bode Museum in Mitte. On March 27, 2017 cousins Ahmed and Wissam Remmo (members of the famous Remmo crime family) walked along the S-Bahn tracks and climbed through a skylight into a changing room for museum staff — and removed their booty unhindered. Their friend Denis W., who had been hired that month to guard the giant coin, provided insider information. The cousins were sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison, Denis three years and four months. There’s no trace of the gold coin.
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