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UKRAINE

Kyiv protests German police confiscating Ukraine flag at WWII ceremony

Kyiv has condemned Berlin's "mistake" after German police confiscated a giant Ukrainian flag displayed by demonstrators at the Soviet War Memorial in the German capital.

A Ukrainian flag flies at the Brandenburg Gate during a protest against the Russian war in Ukraine.
A Ukrainian flag flies at the Brandenburg Gate during a protest against the Russian war in Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken
 
Police had imposed a ban on displays of flags or military symbols at 15 memorial sites across Berlin, including the iconic site at the central Tiergarten park and another in Treptower Park.
 
But they went further with additional measures on Sunday and Monday, saying it was to ensure that a World War II commemoration ceremony stayed peaceful.
 
“Berlin made a mistake by prohibiting Ukrainian symbols,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. “It’s deeply false to treat them equally with Russian symbols.
 
“Taking a Ukrainian flag away from peaceful protesters is an attack on everyone who now defends Europe and Germany from Russian aggression with this flag in hands,” he added.
 
 
Germany has already outlawed the display of the “Z” symbol used by the Russian army in its invasion of Ukraine.
 
Tensions are running high over possible pro-Russian demonstrations on the two highly symbolic days commemorating the defeat of the Nazis and the end of World War II.
 
Berlin’s decision had sparked strong criticism from the Ukrainian community, including Kyiv’s ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk, who called it a “catastrophic politically wrong decision”.
 
Under heavy police presence, the Ukrainian embassy on Sunday held a commemoration ceremony at the imposing Soviet memorial in Tiergarten park, with Melnyk leaving a wreath of blue and yellow flowers.
 
Counter-protesters gathered outside the cordoned-off area, some chanting “Melnyk out” while others shouted “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine).
 
As guests of the embassy were allowed to display flags, that sparked “expressions of discontent among bystanders”, said police.
 
“In order to secure the peaceful, dignified commemoration, our colleagues rolled up a 25m-long Ukrainian flag,” they added on Twitter.
 
Some 1,600 police officers were deployed in Berlin alone on Sunday amid dozens of expected protests across the capital.
 
Likewise on Monday, they will be out in force, with 1,800 officers on the ground.
 
The Tiergarten memorial commemorates the 80,000 Soviet troops who lost their lives in the battle for Berlin, which led to the capitulation of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945 and the end of World War II in Europe.
 
It is decorated with two tanks and a bronze statue of a triumphant Soviet soldier on a marble pedestal.

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GERHARD SCRHÖDER

German ex-Chancellor Schröder leaves Rosneft board

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder will leave the board of directors of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the company said on Friday, following public pressure.

German ex-Chancellor Schröder leaves Rosneft board

Rosneft said that Schröder and Nord Stream 2 CEO Matthias Warnig informed the company that it was “impossible to extend their powers on the board of directors” a day after Germany stripped Schröder of official perks over ties with Russia.

Rosneft praised their “strategic vision” and “significant contribution to the international business of the company”.

“Their role in the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in Russia and Germany, aimed at increasing the efficiency of the Germany economy and its industry and the well-being of its citizens, is invaluable,” Rosneft added.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over links to Russia

Schröder, who was Germany’s leader from 1998 to 2005, had been slammed for refusing to quit his posts with Russian energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The German Bundestag’s decision to strip Schröder of an office and paid staff on Thursday came after a long effort to get him to turn his back on President Vladimir Putin. 

“The coalition parliamentary groups have drawn consequences from the behaviour of former chancellor and lobbyist Gerhard Schröder in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the parliament decided.

“The office of the former chancellor shall be suspended,” it said, noting that Schröder “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

The cost of Schröder’s office and employees was estimated to cost taxpayers around €400,000 per year. 

EU lawmakers separately called in a non-binding resolution on the bloc to slap sanctions on Schröder and other Europeans who refuse to give up lucrative board seats at Russian companies.

Schröder, 78, is due to join the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in June.

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