Berlin bans Russian flags at memorials on WWII anniversary

A Berlin court on Monday banned Russian flags and symbols from being displayed around three Soviet memorials in the German capital during World War II commemorations.

A man waves a Russian flag at a Berlin Soviet Memorial
A man waves a Russian flag at a Berlin Soviet Memorial on May 9th 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

The higher administrative court said it agreed with police who feared Russian flags and Saint George ribbons could be interpreted as symbols of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“In the current context, they could be understood as a declaration of sympathy for the war” and “convey a willingness to use violence”, the court said in a statement.

Police had originally prohibited both Ukrainian and Russian flags at the memorials on May 8th and 9th, when the end of World War II is commemorated. 

They had argued that “respect for these memorials and monuments must be preserved against the backdrop of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war”.

But a lower Berlin court on Saturday overturned the ban after challenges from Ukrainian and Russian organisations, citing a “different view on our threat assessment”.

READ ALSO: Berlin court overturns May 8-9 ban on Ukrainian flags

Ukrainian activists welcomed the chance to fly their own flags but raised concerns over the green light for Russian symbols.

Vitsche, an association of young Ukrainians in Germany, said the St George ribbon “has been used since 2014 to justify and glorify the Russian attack against Ukraine”.

Police filed an appeal against the decision on Russian symbols, which was upheld on Monday by the higher court.

The decision to allow Ukrainian flags was unaffected, since police did not appeal against lifting their ban.

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Germany and western allies begin major Baltic Sea naval drills

Western allies kicked off a major German-led naval exercise in the Baltic Sea on Saturday amid rising tensions with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Germany and western allies begin major Baltic Sea naval drills

About 3,200 soldiers from 14 countries are taking part in the Northern Coasts 23 exercise, the German navy said in a statement.

The exercise will involve 30 ships, submarines, up to 19 aircraft and various landing units, it said.

 “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has radically altered the security situation in the Baltic Sea,” said NATO spokesperson Dylan White.

“Exercises like these send a clear message that NATO stands ready to defend every inch of allied territory.”

Other countries taking part include Italy, France, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the US.

It is the first time the German navy has been charged with “planning and conducting a manoeuvre of such magnitude”, said Rear Admiral Stephan Haisch, director of the manouevre.

The Northern Coasts series was launched by the German navy in 2007. Responsibility for the exercise alternates annually between Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

This year, for the first time, “a realistic scenario is being practised within the framework of alliance defence”, according to the German navy.

The exercise will take place off the coasts and on the territory of Latvia and Estonia.

Incidents involving Russian and Western aircraft have multiplied over the Black Sea and Baltic Sea during Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

Moscow said in May that it had intercepted four US strategic bombers above the Baltic Sea in two separate incidents in the space of one week.

Russia regularly holds naval drills in the Baltic Sea, often in response to NATO exercises in the area.

It last held drills in the area in early August.

The Russian navy has played a key role in Moscow’s assault on Ukraine by pummelling the Western-backed country with ship- and submarine-launched cruise missiles, among other weapons.