In front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, I meet a Russian tank that Ukrainians have destroyed during the war. I speak with people who have organized the protest. Thousands shout „Russia is a terrorist state“. The Brandenburg Gate shines in Ukrainian colors.
It’s February 24, 2023, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has now lasted a year. Thousands of people enter the streets for a peaceful protest. A central demonstration site is the Russian embassy in the street „Unter den Linden“. In the embassy itself, lights are off except for an artifical star flashing high up in the foyer behind dark windows. Outside the buildig, a Russian tank that was destroyed by Ukrainians during the war aims at the building.
I meet Manfred. His group is one of those who played a role in organizing the protest. Manfred’s group has no name. „I am against the war,“ he says straightforward. Earlier, with the help of the police, he had chased away some „AfD1 supporters or worse,“ he says. „They identified themselves as right-wing radicals, filmed and interviewed protestors to provoke trouble,“ he assumes. „But everything went peacefully.“
1AfD = Alternative for Germany (a far right wing populist party)
Manfred is not alone. A few meters away, I bump into Annette. „We are about 15 people,“ she explains when asked about her and Manfred’s group. „But we are not an association or an organization. We found each other in common interest for the cause.“
Annette and her group members had built their memorial in front of the Russian embassy half a year ago. „For today’s pupose, we have renewed it,“ she explains.
Not far away, I meet a young woman who introduces herself as Jessika. She was born in Berlin, but her parents are from Ukraine, she says. „We come from the Kiev region, and the rest of my family still lives there. They hide in basements or have to fight on the front line.“
Behind the Brandenburg Gate, where the Bundestag is located, exiled Russians also protest against the war and against the politics of their home country. A spokesman addresses clear words to Putin’s followers: „Don’t believe Russian propaganda.“
In the following hours, the protest picks up speed. Dusk falls, and even more protester fill the street „Unter den Linden“. Several thousand people shout „Russia is a terrorist state!“ as they walk by the Russian embassy.