Berlin Attempts to Ban Russian Flags on Victory Day, Prompting Legal Tussle

A Berlin court on Monday upheld a police ban on Russian and Soviet flags and other symbols at this week’s Victory Day celebrations, which commemorate the end of World War II in Europe.

In Berlin, the Victory celebration spans two days. Late on May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany signed its capitulation in Berlin. Because of the time difference, Russia celebrates the victory against fascism on May 9.

In the years prior to Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Berliners and Russians in the city would gather at major monuments. But now, the monuments have become staging points for pro-Russian activists.

Although a majority of Germans support Ukraine, a vocal minority back Moscow, including members of the large Russian diaspora as well as far-right activists.

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 a court ruling overturned those restrictions after a public outcry, and the police opted not to challenge that decision. Pro-Russian activists then went to court and obtained an injunction to allow the display of Russian symbols, including flags.

But on Monday a higher court overturned that ruling and reinstated the ban on Russian and Soviet symbols, according to DPA, the German news service.

For years, the annual commemorations at Berlin’s major Soviet memorials ranged from somber to boisterous, and featured many Russian and Soviet flags, uniforms and ribbons. Last year, amid the restrictions on symbols and songs, the celebrations were muted.

The police have said they will have up to 1,500 officers ready to respond during Victory Day celebrations this year.

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