German police confiscated a giant Ukrainian flag in Berlin on Sunday after protesters unveiled it at a Soviet Second World War memorial service to mark VE Day.
Police had imposed a ban on displays of flags or military symbols at 15 memorial sites across Berlin, including the iconic site at the central Tiergarten park and another in Treptower Park.
But they went further with additional measures on Sunday and Monday, saying it was to ensure that a World War II commemoration ceremony stayed peaceful.
Pictures and video showed officers rolling up the large blue and yellow flag at the Soviet War Memorial in the German capital, which had the words ‘they are us’ written down the centre.
In response, Kyiv on Sunday condemned Berlin’s ‘mistake’.
German police confiscated a giant Ukrainian flag in Berlin on Sunday after protesters unveiled it at a Soviet Second World War memorial service to mark VE Day (pictured)
Pictures and video showed officers rolling up the large blue and yellow flag at the Soviet War Memorial in the German capital, which had the words ‘they are us’ written down the centre
Police had imposed a ban on displays of flags or military symbols at 15 memorial sites across Berlin, including the iconic site at the central Tiergarten park and another in Treptower Park
‘Berlin made a mistake by prohibiting Ukrainian symbols,’ Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. ‘It’s deeply false to treat them equally with Russian symbols.
‘Taking a Ukrainian flag away from peaceful protesters is an attack on everyone who now defends Europe and Germany from Russian aggression with this flag in hands,’ he added.
Germany has already outlawed the display of the ‘Z’ symbol used by the Russian army in its invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, Berlin police had said: ‘The act of remembering, as well as the respect for memorials and monuments, must be preserved against the background of Russia’s current war of aggression in Ukraine.
‘The war must not be allowed to spill over into conflicts or disputes in Berlin beyond the democratic discourse.’
Tensions are running high over possible pro-Russian demonstrations on the two highly symbolic days commemorating the defeat of the Nazis and the end of the Second World War.
Activists unfold a Ukrainian flag during a wreath-laying ceremony organized by the Ukrainian Embassy to mark Victory Day and the 77th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Berlin
Kyiv on Sunday condemned Berlin’s ‘mistake’ at removing the large flag. Pictured: he Ukranian ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk (R) and his wife Svitlana Melnyk (3rd R) sing next to Ukrainian singer Tina Karol (2-R) the Ukrainian hymn at the Soviet war memorial in Tiergarten park in Berlin, May 8
A woman dressed in colours of Ukrainian flag walks at a Soviet War Memorial during commemorations to celebrate the end of World War II, 77 years ago, at the district Treptow in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, May 8, 2022
Berlin’s decision had sparked strong criticism from the Ukrainian community, including Kyiv’s ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk, who called it a ‘catastrophic politically wrong decision’.
Under heavy police presence, the Ukrainian embassy on Sunday held a commemoration ceremony at the imposing Soviet memorial in Tiergarten park, with Melnyk leaving a wreath of blue and yellow flowers.
Counter-protesters gathered outside the cordoned-off area, some chanting ‘Melnyk out’ while others shouted ‘Slava Ukraini’ (Glory to Ukraine).
As guests of the embassy were allowed to display flags, that sparked ‘expressions of discontent among bystanders’, said police.
Activists unfurl a Ukrainian national flag at the Soviet war memorial in Tiergarten park to commemorate the 77th anniversary of V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day, which marks the 1945 end of World War II in Europe, on May 08, 2022
Police officers remove a Ukrainian flag unfolded by activists during a wreath-laying ceremony organized by the Ukrainian Embassy to mark Victory Day and the 77th anniversary of the end of World War Two, at the Soviet War Memorial at Tiergarten Park in Berlin, Germany May 8, 2022
‘In order to secure the peaceful, dignified commemoration, our colleagues rolled up a 25m-long Ukrainian flag,’ they added on Twitter.
Some 1,600 police officers were deployed in Berlin alone on Sunday amid dozens of expected protests across the capital.
Likewise on Monday, they will be out in force, with 1,800 officers on the ground.
The Tiergarten memorial commemorates the 80,000 Soviet troops who lost their lives in the battle for Berlin, which led to the capitulation of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945 and the end of World War II in Europe.
It is decorated with two tanks and a bronze statue of a triumphant Soviet soldier on a marble pedestal.
Relationships between Germany and Kyiv have been strained by the war in Ukraine, with some in Kyiv arguing that Berlin has not done enough to support them.
Kyiv has bemoaned a lack of weapon supplies from Germany, and has accused it of being slow to impose sanctions, such as bans on Russian imports.
Like many in Europe, Germany has imposed sanctions on Russia, and cancelled the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have increased its supply of Russian gas.
Source: Daily Mail