May 8 is a very symbolic date in Germany. It marks the end of the Second World War, the end of the darkest stage in its recent history and the beginning of a long road of expiation of guilt and assumption of responsibilities. This year, however, the celebration is marked by the war in Ukraine. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, took advantage of the commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism to address an unusual message on television to his fellow citizens in which he lamented that “today brute force breaks the law again in the middle of Europe”, He was proud of the unity of the allies and said he was convinced that “Putin will not win the war.”
Scholz referred to May 8 as the “day of liberation” and recalled that the most important lesson Germany has learned is “Never again!” to war, genocide and tyranny. Therefore, he said, the country can only be on the side of law and freedom: “We support Ukraine against the aggressor.” The chancellor acknowledged that Germany has made difficult and far-reaching decisions in recent weeks, some of them unprecedented such as sending large-scale weapons into a war zone, and said he understands the concern many Germans may feel that the conflict spreads. “It would be a mistake to rule it out,” he assured: “But at the same time, fear cannot paralyze us.”
Scholz has also referred to the equation of the invasion with the fight against Nazism, a rhetoric that the Kremlin has been using since the beginning of what it euphemistically calls a “special military operation.” For the chancellor, this is “a shameful distortion of history.” “It is our duty to say it clearly,” he added.
Prevent NATO entry into the war
The chancellor has faced much criticism, both outside and inside Germany, for his delay in giving the go-ahead for sending tanks to kyiv and for initially opposing embargoes on Russian energy for fear of wrecking the economy. German. In his speech he explained that his decisions have been based on four principles: not to act in isolation but in coordination with allies; maintain the defensive capability of the German Army; not harm Germany and its partners more than Russia, and prevent NATO from taking part in the war. “That there should be no more world wars – especially between nuclear powers – is also a lesson of May 8,” he said.
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Scholz assured that nobody can know when and how the war will end, but it is clear that “there should not be a peace dictated by Russia.” “The Ukrainians will not accept that, and neither will we,” he added. The chancellor valued that “rarely” has there been so much unity between the Western partners. “I am deeply convinced: Putin will not win the war. Ukraine will exist. Freedom and security will prevail, as they did 77 years ago.”
flags are prohibited
Numerous commemorative events have been held in Germany this Sunday on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II. Around 1,600 police officers have been deployed in Berlin alone in anticipation of any clash between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters. The authorities decided on Friday to ban the display of the flags of both countries during the weekend. Last April, a caravan of around 400 vehicles paraded through the center of the capital displaying Russian flags and the Z symbol in support of the invasion, a demonstration for which the city’s mayor, Franziska Giffey, has received numerous criticisms. .
In the city there are 15 memorials of the Red Army that liberated the capital from the Nazis, including one in the heart of the city, in the Tiergarten park, very close to the Brandenburg Gate. Several dozen people laid wreaths in the morning to shouts from supporters in Moscow and kyiv. “Nazis out” was heard, but also “Melnyk out”. Andrij Melnyk is the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany and one of the most critical voices with the Government of the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz. The ambassador has even insulted the foreign minister because he considers that he is not doing enough to help Ukraine with the shipment of heavy weapons. During Melnyk’s visit to the monument to lay a wreath, a group of youths unfurled a Ukrainian flag, which the police quickly folded again. Among the public concentrated on the street of June 17, they also heard how they called him “Nazi”.
Parallel to the celebrations in Germany, the president of the Bundestag, the social democrat Bärbel Bas, traveled to kyiv this Sunday to meet with the Ukrainian president. For representation purposes, Bas is the second most important figure in the state, after the president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Her trip is therefore the first by a high-level German politician since the start of the war, and comes after a bitter controversy between the two countries over Zelensky’s rejection of Steinmeier’s visit in mid-April. .
A telephone conversation between the two this week ended the diplomatic crisis. The German chancellor had refused to travel to kyiv in response to the rudeness suffered by the president of the republic. Steinmeier, who was a minister with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and in two of Angela Merkel’s cabinets, is considered one of the politicians who have maintained good relations with Moscow over the years and who have facilitated the huge dependence on energy that it now has. Germany from Russian hydrocarbons.
Steinmeier, a social democrat militant until he was first elected president in 2018, accused Putin of “destroying the foundations of the peaceful European order achieved and maintained since the end of World War II” at an act of the German trade union federation held in Berlin. . The Russian attack “is a break with many things that we took for granted. It is the end of an era”, he added, lamenting that May 8, a very symbolic day in Germany, is now “a day of war”.