BERLIN: From paint-smeared Russian shops to street slurs, attacks on the Russian community in Germany have increased since the invasion of Ukraine, leading authorities to fear the conflict will be imported into their territory.
In contrast, in the country with the largest diaspora in the EU, demonstrations in the form of an “anti-Russophobia” cortege with Russian flags are being organized, causing controversy because of their failure to maintain a distance in the face of the Russian military. aggression.
New parades of this type are planned for Sunday, in particular in Frankfurt and Hannover.
Christian Freyer, 40, who organized the 400-car convoy to Berlin last Sunday, has since received hundreds of death threats and hard-to-pronounce images of torn or burned bodies every day.
His garage website was hacked and his online rankings plummeted: “My life is hell,” this Russian-German complains.
Several political messages were heard in the cortege that shocked the German political class on the very day that Buchi’s atrocities became known.
However, the woman was arrested for displaying the letter “Z”, a symbol of support for the Russian army, and is now banned in Berlin.
“My purpose was only to protest against the aggression that the Russians in Germany suffer daily,” said Mr. Freier, stating that his demonstration had nothing to do with the conflict, which he certainly did not wants to speak.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the German police have officially received 383 anti-Russian and 181 anti-Ukrainian crimes.
There are 1.2 million people in Germany who themselves or their families are from Russia, and 325,000 people from Ukraine, to which should be added the arrival of more than 316,000 Ukrainian refugees in the last month.
“procession of shame»
“All war is reprehensible, and none can be justified,” says one of the organizers of the Berlin procession, German Rene Herman, 50 years old. He claims that he “does not position himself in this conflict.”
But far from journalists, the man turns out to be an influential blogger with thousands of followers on the social network Tiktok. Until the recent blocking of his account, he posted many messages typical of pro-Kremlin propaganda.
One of them claimed that “prisoners say that Kyiv ordered the massacre in order to manipulate Western thought.”
“The reasons for participating in these demonstrations are very diverse,” analyzes Jochen Töpfer, a sociologist at the Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg and a specialist in Russian society.
“The organizer was talking about a demonstration against discrimination in Germany. Also, there are definitely Putin fans or people who don’t like Putin but don’t want their country to be discredited despite the war,” he told AFP.
The Berlin parade caused a wave of popular indignation: the daily newspaper Bild wrote about “processions of shame”.
“For God’s sake, how could you allow this shameful procession in the middle of Berlin?” Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, was offended, addressing the mayor of Berlin Francis Giffy.
She replied that she “understood” his anger, but indicated that she could not ban a demonstration at which “Russian flags” were flying.
According to German Interior Minister Nancy Feiser, the security authorities “are closely monitoring how dangerous the citizens of Russia, as well as Ukraine, are in Germany.”
Adding: “we must be very careful that this war is not imported into our society.”
A hypothesis challenged by researcher Tobias Ruprecht of the Free University of Berlin: “most Russians here have a much more critical view of the conflict, they tend to be much more Western than Russians in Russia.”
However, “the longer the war goes on, the higher the risk of seeing more crimes committed in this context in Germany,” Mr. Töpfer fears.
Russian organizations also condemned the marches.
“We will not tolerate those few cases of discrimination that are used to cover up pro-Putin propaganda activities,” warned the Community of Interests of Germans in Russia in Hesse (IDRH).