A legal tussle was unfolding in Berlin on Monday over an attempt by the police in the German capital to ban Russian flags at Victory Day celebrations this week.
Before Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Berliners and Russians would gather at the city’s monuments to commemorate Victory Day, the May 9 holiday in Russia that marks the Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany. But since the start of the invasion, the monuments have become staging points for pro-Russian activists.
Although a majority of Germans support Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion, a vocal minority — which includes members of the large Russian diaspora as well as far-right activists — vocally support Moscow.
Last week, the Berlin police announced a ban on symbols, uniforms, songs and flags that could be seen to support Russia’s invasion during Victory Day commemorations, citing the risk of violence. The measure, similar to one instituted last year, applied to three major memorial events on Monday and Tuesday.
The ban initially included Ukrainian flags, chants and military songs, but after a public outcry, a court ruling overturned those restrictions. The police announced on Friday that it would not seek to challenge that decision.
But then pro-Russian activists went to court and obtained an injunction to allow the display of Russian symbols, including flags.
The Berlin police said on Sunday that it would fight that ruling in a higher court. For now, both Russian and Ukrainian symbols will be allowed.
The police have said they will have up to 1,500 officers ready to respond during Victory Day celebrations.
For years, the annual commemorations at Berlin’s major Soviet memorials ranged from somber to boisterous, featuring many Russian and Soviet flags, uniforms and Saint Georg Ribbons. Last year, amid the restrictions on symbols and songs, the celebrations were muted.
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