Berlin Senate defends memorial site conditions after criticism

Ukrainian War

Despite Ukrainian protests: Senate sticks to flag ban

One of the places where Russian and Ukrainian flags are banned is the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park.

Photo: Carsten Koall / dpa

Ambassador Melnyk finds the conditions “scandalous”. Giffey points out that the restrictions only apply to the 15 memorial sites.

Berlin. The Berlin Senate sticks to its line. Military flags and symbols, including Ukrainian ones, are banned from 15 places in the city during commemorations marking the day of liberation from the Nazi regime on May 8 and 9. Only elderly World War II veterans are allowed to wear uniforms and medals. Ambassadors and their delegations are also exempt from the ban. Police restrictions for memorial sites also prohibit military marches or chants as well as the Z symbol. Used by the Russian military and for propaganda purposes against Ukraine, the letter stands for “za pobedu” (“For victory “).

The command applies to Memorials in Treptow Park and in the Schönholzer Heide in Pankow. This also includes the Marzahn Park Cemeterythat Berlin Karlshorst Museumthe Bersarin Square in Friedrichshain as good as Cenotaphs in the book, Staaken, Prenzlauerberg, Wittenau, Rummelsburg and Alt-Hohenschoenhausen. Many demonstrations and commemorative events are planned in Berlin on May 8 and 9.

In all other public places, the wearing of Ukrainian flags on these two days is still “generally authorized”, the police said on Saturday. The authority had already ordered it on Friday. However, some depictions might give the impression that wearing Ukrainian flags, for example, is generally forbidden in Berlin. It’s not, he says.

Ban on flags: Severe criticism of the conditions

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk called the conditions imposed by Berlin police “outrageous” and personally asked “dear mayor” Franziska Giffey in a Twitter message to revoke the decision. “A slap in the face to Ukraine and a slap in the face to the Ukrainian people,” wrote the diplomat, who had previously drawn attention on several occasions by attacking German politicians.

Giffey pointed out on Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) that there was “no general ban on flags” in Berlin. She also told Melnyk about it. The flags could be displayed anywhere else outside of the 15 locations, Giffey continued – four Ukrainian flags also waved at their official residence, the Red City Hall. Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) referred to the regulation that Ukrainian flags are not banned in Berlin under any circumstances, but only at the 15 Soviet memorials and memorials, where rallies and events are expected. About 45 events have been recorded recently, but the situation is very dynamic.

The CDU shares the Ukrainian’s criticisms. “The Ukrainian flag represents the struggle for freedom,” country and faction leader Kai Wegner wrote on Twitter. “How can you be so instinctive in Berlin of all places to ban them?” Ms Giffey must immediately correct this “painful bad decision”. For explanation: the Senate banned all flags in the places concerned, including Soviet, Ukrainian and Russian flags. Police Chief Barbara Slowik assured that action would be taken against “any form of support, endorsement, glorification or even glorification of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, especially during of meetings”.

No stealing: confrontation must be avoided

Spranger, Slowik and the entire Senate want to avoid a clash between supporters of Russia and Ukraine over the graves of fallen Soviet soldiers. “The central idea is that the commemoration of May 8 and 9, 1945 and thus the liberation of Germany from National Socialism should be clearly separated from the situation in May 2022,” Spranger’s home administration said. It is important to “prevent any confrontation” at memorial sites that commemorate Russian and Ukrainian soldiers who died in battle.

For his part, the leader of the FDP, Christian Lindner, strongly criticized the announcement of pro-Russian demonstrations for Sunday and Monday. He found it “shocking that during a Russian war in Europe on the day the Nazi regime capitulated, Putin’s sympathizers abused that day,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

Incendiary device in the building of a Russian media agency

The discovery of an incendiary device on Friday evening shows how bad the situation can be. In the building of the Russian multimedia news agency Ria Novosti at Steglitzer Lepsiusstraße. The police considered the object so dangerous that they did not want to take it away.

“Police forensic scientists destroyed the incendiary device on Friday evening around 8:45 p.m. in a controlled manner,” a police spokesman for the Berliner Morgenpost said on Saturday. No one was hurt. The context was still unclear on Saturday. There are also offices of other companies in the building. State security has taken over the investigation.

Approximately 3,400 police officers on duty

The Berlin police want to accompany the planned demonstrations and commemorative events with a large contingent. According to a spokesperson, around 3,400 police are expected to be on the road in the urban area on Sunday and Monday.

A large part of the events are smaller meetings with between five and 50 participants which are organized by clubs, associations or parties like the left. But behind others there are also Russian initiatives, which in turn often provoke anti-Russian counter-protests from Ukrainian initiatives. The biggest event is a “Red Army Memorial Elevator” which will move from the Brandenburg Gate to the Tiergarten Memorial on Monday with 1,300 people. It remains to be seen to what extent this is possible in the context of the bans issued.

The Russian Embassy is also planning a series of commemorative events, but is keeping the exact timings secret this year. “Unfortunately, for security reasons, we do not release exact dates and locations,” he said. Wreaths and flowers will be laid at Soviet memorials and the graves of dead soldiers in Tiergarten, Pankow and Treptower Park. In addition, visits to the most important memorial sites of the former concentration camps are planned.

Ukrainian Ambassador wants to lay a wreath

Berlin politicians, who have always participated in events organized by the Russian Embassy in recent years, are absent this year to protest against aggression in Ukraine. Ukrainian Ambassador Melnyk, meanwhile, announced that he wanted to lay a wreath at the Tiergarten memorial on Sunday at noon. All commemorative events will be supervised and secured accordingly, a police spokesperson said.

Berlin’s administrative court recently said restrictions on pro-Russian protests were permitted. The first to be banned in this context was the so-called Z symbol. The letter is used by supporters of Russian aggression war and means “za pobedu” (“For victory”).

Ahead of the court’s confirmation, a pro-Russian motorcade in Berlin in early April sparked national outrage. About 400 vehicles drove through the city with Russian flags. On the same day, the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha became known. Organizers had originally announced another parade for May 8 or 9. So far, according to the police, no such thing has been reported.

The ‘Night Wolves’ visit was uneventful

The members of the “Night Wolves” arrived in Berlin on Thursday. The Russian nationalist rocker club is said to have close ties to leader Vladimir Putin. The 18 rockers traveled from Saxony, laid a wreath at the Tiergarten memorial and left without incident, according to a police spokesperson. Other members of the “Night Wolves” who also want to go to the Tiergarten have announced that they will be there on Monday.

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