By Andreas Rabenstein und Gisela Gross, dpa l Saturday, February 25, 2023
BERLIN – Several thousand people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Saturday for a huge rally in favour of negotiations with Russia to end the Ukraine war.
Prominent left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht and women’s rights activist Alice Schwarzer had called for the demonstration, which took place one day after the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Wagenknecht belongs to the hard-left party Die Linke, which grew out of the remnants of the former East German communist party. There was a large influx of crowds on both sides of the Brandenburg Gate, despite sleet and cold. Some participants carried flags with peace doves.
The police registered 10,000 participants as of 2 pm (1300 GMT). Final figures were not yet available. A figure of 50,000 people was mentioned from the stage at the beginning.
The police were deployed with 1,400 officers. Several smaller counter-demonstrations were also registered in the area around the Brandenburg Gate.
The display of certain pro-war symbols has been prohibited at the rally. These include wearing of military uniforms and insignia, the display of the letters Z and V and “other war-glorifying symbols” as well as “the use of Russian and Soviet military flags,” the Berlin police wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a Z is often seen on Russian military vehicles. It stands for “za pobedu” (“for victory”) and is also used by Russia’s supporters around the world. V stands for the phrase “sila v pravde” (“strength in truth”).
A fortnight ago, Wagenknecht and Schwarzer published a “Manifesto for Peace” in which they demanded Chancellor Olaf Scholz “stop the escalation of arms deliveries.” In it, they call for a ceasefire and peace negotiations with Russia.
Critics had accused the organizers of being “naive” to the realities of the war. One has to understand “that the Russian president currently only accepts one form of negotiation, namely that someone capitulates unconditionally,” said Scholz.
On the other hand, more than 640,000 people declared online they agreed with the manifesto by noon on Saturday.