March 5. 2024. 9:02

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Protests in Brussels, Berlin against arms supply to Ukraine


With the support of leftist parties, EU citizens took to the streets of Berlin and Brussels over the weekend to express their opposition against continuing to deliver weapons to Ukraine and calling instead for “diplomatic” solutions. In Germany, though, the protest triggered the government’s strong reaction.

In Brussels, two different protests were organised over the weekend. One group called for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and stop the bombings, while the other called for de-escalation.

On Saturday, 2,500 protesters called for Russian withdrawal and for military aid to Ukraine to be increased in a protest calling for Russian withdrawal. The protest was organised by Promote Ukraine, the Union of Ukrainian Women in Belgium and the Belgian Committee of the European Solidarity Network with Ukraine (RESU).

“Why is it taking so long to provide an air defence system? Think of all the cities and lives that could have been saved if we had received these air defence systems earlier!” Yana Brovdiy, a member of the NGO Promote Ukraine, told RFI during the event

On Sunday, 1,600 people joined a protest organised by Platfeforme Europe for Peace & Solidarity, who condemned Russia’s war but called for “all diplomatic means” to be used to end the conflict and reach a lasting peace.

Protesters, who called for de-escalation, also criticised NATO, with some participants calling the war in Ukraine a “war between NATO and Russia”.

There is a “need to build a collective and indivisible security system, a new security architecture based on the principle that security cannot be pursued at the expense of others,” according to the organisers of Sunday’s protest.

According to media reports, leftist and Greens parties participated in Sunday’s protest, while right-wing parties attended the anti-Russian protest.

Berlin: Protests do not meet ‘online’ expectations

In Berlin, some 13,000 Germans protested further arms deliveries to Ukraine, a far cry from the 688,000 that made a similar call via an online petition.

The protest was organised by left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke/European Left) and feminist author Alice Schwarzer.

The police said 13,000 were present, while the organisers claimed 50,000 participants.

Online, though, they did better. An associated “Manifesto for Peace” by Wagenknecht and Schwarzer, which spoke out against the further delivery of weapons, reached 680,000 signatures on the petition platform “Change.org” on Sunday.

“Ukraine can win individual battles – supported by the West. But it cannot win a war against the world’s largest nuclear power,” the manifesto reads, urging Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD/S&D) to “end the escalation of weapon deliveries.”

Instead, he should “head a powerful alliance at international and European level for a ceasefire and peace negotiations,” Wagenknecht and Schwarzer wrote.

“It is to be feared that Putin will launch a maximum counterattack at the latest in the event of an attack on Crimea. Are we then heading inexorably down a slippery slope toward world war and nuclear war?” the manifesto reads.

Parties upset with a demonstration

The demonstration, which also saw some leading figures of the far-right participating, such as publisher Jürgen Elsässer, was sharply criticised by representatives of the German government as well as the biggest opposition party CDU.

“Everyone in their right mind wants peace,” Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) told broadcaster ARD on Friday.

But “what Sahra Wagenknecht and those following her do, is not to call for peace, but to sell as peace something that an imperialist dictator forces on Europe,” he said, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

For his part, opposition leader Friedrich Merz of conservative CDU (EPP) also criticised the group, arguing that “there already is a manifesto for peace” about the UN’s resolution to end the war.

“In the week leading up to the first anniversary of the war, the United Nations General Assembly in New York again overwhelmingly called for an end to hostilities and for Putin to withdraw his Russian troops from Ukraine,” he wrote in an email to CDU supporters.

The “so-called ‘Manifesto for Peace’” by Wagenknecht and Schwarzer, in contrast, would be “a capitulation to the sheer military force of Putin and his regime,” Merz wrote, calling it an “ahistorical attitude”.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com, Jonathan Packroff | EURACTIV.de)