Pro-Russian demonstration in Hanover

Dhe Russian war of aggression in Ukraine seems to be leading to a new form of protest in Germany: motorcades with Russian flags. After the first such demonstration in Berlin last Sunday, rallies along the same lines took place in other cities over the weekend. The largest took place in the Lower Saxony state capital of Hanover, where, according to the police, around 600 people drove through the city in around 350 vehicles. The participants first gathered at a larger parking lot in the Linden-Limmer district, where they waved Russian flags and played nationalist songs in Russian over loudspeakers. A few rockers in heavy leather tunics and people in military clothing and with flags on which the Russian bear bared his teeth also came.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

One of the organizers gave a speech from the back of an American pick-up and said that they were “not here to talk about the war” but about the discrimination against the Russian-born population in Germany. In his contribution, the speaker did not address the Kremlin’s war in violation of international law and the alleged war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population. Instead, he complained that Russian-German families were exposed to increasing pressure and hostility “in kindergartens, schools, at work and in public places”. In addition, the media published articles that “incite hatred towards Russian-speaking citizens”.

Before the demonstration, the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior had announced that the police would protect the meeting “with their legitimate concerns”, but that action would be taken consistently against “pro-Russian war propaganda” such as the “Z” symbol.

What was striking at the rally was that, in addition to the Russian flags, numerous German flags and the flags of former Soviet republics were also shown. In particular, the flag of Kazakhstan was often recognizable. A man with such a flag said he was “against war” and had “nothing to do with Russia.” A group of young people who had decorated their car with Russian flags said in an interview that Moscow was not waging a war of aggression in Ukraine, but was defending itself against America and NATO. When asked about the atrocities of war in Bucha and Kramatorsk, they replied that these events were “presented differently in the West – we see completely different pictures”.

“Just my handkerchief”

A demonstrator with the Chechnya flag slung around her shoulders lost a long black and orange St. George’s ribbon from her handbag – this Russian military badge had previously been mentioned by the Interior Ministry as inadmissible next to the “Z” because it was to be interpreted as a symbol of “territorial expansion”. When asked about this, the woman said, “No, that’s nothing, that’s just my handkerchief,” while hurriedly putting the tape back in her purse. One of her companions also wore such a George ribbon. Also seen was a young woman wearing a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s likeness and the inscription “Don’t tell papa how to f**k”. The t-shirt “is for a reason,” the woman said.

The departure of the motorcade was then considerably delayed because the police still had objections under traffic law and did not accept that Russian flags were stretched over the bonnets. According to their own statements, the police initially did not register any forbidden symbols.

Counter-demonstration with 3500 participants

Parallel to the motorcade, a counter-demonstration took place in the city center, in which the police estimated that 3,500 people took part. The colors of the Ukraine and symbols of peace such as the rainbow or the dove were predominantly to be seen there. Among the participants were many Ukrainians, but also a mixed German audience. A woman from the “grandmas against the right” explained that she had been demonstrating with her friends for some time, initially against corona deniers. “When the lateral thinkers became Putin fans, we included the topic of Ukraine.”

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It was noticeable that among the counter-demonstrators there were hardly any members of Antifa or the “Black Block”, who had previously always shown a presence at the protests against lateral thinkers or the AfD. The same applies to the youth organization “Solid” of the Left Party, which is also critical of NATO. The “Jusos” were represented, but quickly rolled up their flags again, because they didn’t want to take the solidarity with the Ukraine into partisan politics. The “Green Youth” didn’t just unfurl the flag they had brought with them. At the counter-demonstration, among other things, a complete embargo against Russia and more weapons for Ukraine were demanded.

There were also demonstrations in other cities

In the afternoon, some counter-demonstrators with their Ukrainian flags blocked the motorcade with the Russian flags shortly after they had started moving. Some counter-demonstrators surrounded a parade vehicle and threw horse manure at it.

Larger pro-Russian rallies also took place in Frankfurt on Sunday, where several hundred people marched through the city center. A motorcade in Lübeck with 60 vehicles was stopped by the police because of illegal symbols. Around 190 vehicles took part in a motorcade in Stuttgart and around 120 vehicles in Lörrach.