Rallies against the U.S.-led NATO bloc, the EU, supply of weapons to Ukraine and anti-war have been held across France, and in Italy and Germany. At protest sites, demonstrators defaced and tore down NATO and EU flags.
Tens of thousands of Germans braved the elements to attend the Uprising for Peace, a massive rally organized by Die Linke (Left Party) politician Sahra Wagenknecht and author Alice Schwarzer on Saturday.
The demonstrators massed at the Brandenburg Gate, calling for peace talks to end the conflict in Ukraine and demanding Berlin cease supplying Kiev with weapons.
Wagenknecht slammed the German government for trying to “ruin Russia,” urging leaders to make Moscow an “offer” so that peace talks could begin. The rally, she said, represented the “start of a citizens’ initiative” and the launch of a “new, strong peace movement in Germany.”
The rally welcomed protesters from across the political spectrum, declaring anyone who wanted peace “with an honest heart” was welcome, though neo-Nazi provocateurs jostling for media attention were not.
The organizers counted some 50,000 participants, while the police gave a lowball figure of 13,000.
Wagenknecht and Schwarzer earlier this month published a Manifest for Peace urging Chancellor Olaf Scholz to “stop the escalation in weapons deliveries.” It has since been signed by over half a million people, including well-known public intellectuals and political figures.
Scholz has repeatedly declared peace talks to be outside the realm of possibility, insisting that it is Russia that is unwilling to come to the table, despite Moscow’s many attempts since the start of the conflict to resolve things peacefully.
Flowers To Blown-up Russian tank
The people of Berlin have turned a blown-up Russian tank, placed in front of Moscow’s embassy in the German capital by supporters of Kiev, into a memorial to victims of the fighting in Ukraine by covering the crippled vehicle with flowers.
The T-72 tank appeared in central Berlin on Friday – the first anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine, which broke out on February 24, 2022.
Activists from the Berlin Story Bunker museum had won a lengthy legal battle against the city authorities, to be able to carry out the stunt.
The tank, which is said to have been damaged by a mine in the Kiev suburb of Bucha in late March and later transported to Germany, was intended to symbolize Russia’s failure in Ukraine, the museum’s curator Wieland Giebel explained. “This tank means that the Russian regime will crumble, it will turn into a pile of junk, just like this tank,” Giebel said.
However, people in Berlin, who took to the streets in their thousands on Saturday to decry the supply of weapons by Germany to Kiev forces, gave a different interpretation. They brought numerous flowers to the tank, and put anti-war banners on it, including: “Make peace, not war.”
Russia’s Embassy in Berlin posted on Telegram on Sunday that the “provocation” organized by supporters of Ukraine “did not meet understanding, support and sympathy of the German citizens.”
They “unambiguously spoke out in favor of a settlement of the Ukrainian conflict, against escalation by pumping the Kiev regime with German weapons,” it said.
The Russian diplomats thanked everybody who laid flowers on the tank, which it said became “a symbol of the fight against Neo-Nazism in Ukraine.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that the Ukrainian government of Vladimir Zelensky and its Western backers have allocated “millions” for various stunts dedicated to the anniversary of the conflict. Most of this money has been “stolen,” while the installations that were made using the remaining sums turned out to be “so talentless that they backfired,” she wrote on Telegram.
In recent months, Moscow has repeatedly stressed its readiness to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis. However, the government has accused Kiev and the West of making “unacceptable” proposals that showed that they were not interested in peace.
Several hundred people marched through the Bavarian city of Nuremberg on January 30, protesting against Berlin’s move to provide Ukraine with heavy arms, including Leopard 2 tanks. Participants voiced concerns that Germany could end up being dragged into a massive war with Russia as a result.
Protesters chanted slogans and beating drums. One of the banners caught on camera read “We are the red line.”
Police were observing the event, with no clashes or arrests reported.
One of the demonstrators said that “Ukraine will not be able to pay” for the weapons provided by the West. He argued that it is the Germans who will have to pick up the tab.
“If we Germans get involved in a war, and I personally do not have a war with Russia, then for us Germans, based on history, it is the worst sign that we can send,” he told.
According to the demonstrator, “no war must go through Germany, neither with arms deliveries nor anything else, because otherwise, Germany will be in the middle of it again.” The latter, he claimed, is just what “America wants.”
The march came after Chancellor Scholz announced last Wednesday his decision to ship fourteen Leopard 2A6 tanks from Germany’s own stock to Kiev. Berlin also said that it would authorize other countries in possession of the hardware to do the same.
The announcement marked a major U-turn by Germany, which had for months refused to give Ukraine tanks, citing the risk of uncontrollable escalation.
In recent weeks, however, pressure on Berlin mounted both from the U.S. and some fellow NATO member states such as Poland. Last Thursday, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius revealed that the German armor is expected to arrive in Ukraine as early as late March. Meanwhile, Scholz explained that Berlin’s goal in the eastern European country is to ensure that Russia does not “succeed in changing borders through force.”
Media reports said:
Multiple mass protests against France’s NATO membership and its continued support of Kiev were held on Sunday in the capital Paris and at other locations across the country.
The demonstrations, taking place for the second consecutive weekend, were organized by the right-wing Les Patriotes party, led by Florian Philippot, who personally attended the rally in Paris.
The politician claimed the event on Sunday, dubbed National March for Peace, attracted even more participants than last week, when some 10,000 showed up for a rally in the French capital. According to Philippot, smaller-scale anti-NATO protests were held at some 30 other locations across France as well.
Protesters marched through the streets of Paris, carrying a large banner reading “For Peace.”
The marchers called for the withdrawal of France from both the U.S.-led NATO and from the EU, and urged a halt to supplying Ukraine with weaponry.
The protesters also took jabs at the incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron, chanting “Macron get out” – a slogan commonly used by assorted anti-government protesters throughout his presidency.
Following the march, the protesters held a rally led by Philippot, who was filmed defacing NATO and EU flags alongside his supporters. Footage of the event was shared by the politician himself on social media.
The politician has been actively staging protests against French membership in NATO and the EU since last fall, while arguing against the supply of weapons to Ukraine.
Between 2012 and 2017, Philippot was the deputy head of the biggest opposition party in France, the National Rally, led until last year by Marine Le Pen. After leaving the National Rally, the 41-year-old politician established his own right-wing party, Les Patriotes.
France has been among the top supporters of Kiev in the ongoing conflict with Russia, which broke out a year ago. While Macron has repeatedly called for a diplomatic settlement of the hostilities, Paris has actively supplied assorted weaponry to Ukraine, including armored vehicles and advanced self-propelled howitzers.
Protest Outside Major U.S. Airbase In EU
Media reports also said:
Several hundred people gathered on Sunday outside Ramstein U.S. airbase in southwestern Germany to demand an end to weapons shipments to Ukraine. The military site is where Western officials have regularly held meetings over the past year to coordinate their aid to Kiev.
The demonstrators also called for a cessation of hostilities and peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.
They chanted slogans and beat drums, with an assortment of banners seen during a live stream of the event on YouTube, including the Russian and Soviet flags.
The placards called for the Americans to “go home,” and also featured slogans including “Freedom to Julian Assange” and “Stop the weapons deliveries.”
When the rally organizers notified the local authorities several days before the event, they said they expected it to kick off at midday and conclude around 5:30pm, with around 2,000 attending.
Ramstein air base has repeatedly made headlines since Russia launched its military campaign against Ukraine a year ago. It is where the U.S.-led Ukraine Defence Contact Group has held its meetings aimed at shoring up the Ukrainian military. The last such gathering took place on January 20.
Earlier this month, approximately 10,000 people took to the streets of Munich for a similarly themed rally just outside of the Bayerische Hof Hotel, where world leaders convened for the Munich Security Conference. Further military support for Ukraine was among the topics high on their agenda.
Among the speakers addressing the crowd was former Christian Democratic MP Juergen Todenhoefer, who argued that “we have to serve peace not Americans.”
Much like the latest event outside Ramstein air base on Sunday, the demonstrators in Munich also called for American troops to leave Germany.
Media reports said:
Several thousand people turned up for peace demonstrations in the Italian cities of Genoa and Milan on Saturday. Union members and left-wing activists claimed, among other things, that authorities in Rome have breached national law by sending weapons to Ukraine.
The rally in Genoa drew nearly 4,000 participants from across the country as well as from Switzerland and France, local media reported.
Organized by the Collective Autonomous Port Workers (CALP) group with the support of the Italian communist party, the protest took place under the slogan “Lower weapons, raise wages.”
CALP’s Riccardo Rudino was cited in the media as saying that the “the conflict in the Ukraine did not begin last year” but rather “in 2014, with the massacre of the Russian-speaking population in Donbass.”
The demonstrators filed through the port of Genoa, demanding an end to the use of the facility for arms shipments destined for Ukraine.
CALP spokesperson Jose Nivoi accused the Italian government of violating law 185 of 1990, which “imposed a ban on the import, export and transit of weapons from Italy to states at war.”
The group’s representatives also described how they had been networking with like-minded “associations and activists in various European cities.”
The procession went off without serious incidents, marred only by a few acts of vandalism at the hands of anarchists, who smeared and damaged several vehicles and broke windows in a bank.
A protest was also held on Saturday in Milan. Several hundred people chanting slogans and waving flags, including those of Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic marched in the protest rally.
The demonstrations in Italy coincided with one in the German capital, Berlin.
Saudi Arabia Pledges Aid To Ukraine
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Sunday, meeting President Vladimir Zelensky in the capital city Kiev and becoming the highest-ranking official of the kingdom ever to visit the country.
The senior diplomat also met other top Ukrainian officials, including his counterpart Dmitry Kuleba.
“I hope that the visit will give a new impetus to a further advancement of our mutually beneficial dialogue,” Zelensky said in a social media post after the meeting.
During the visit, the minister signed an agreement on a $100-million joint cooperation program with Kiev to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine. On top of this, the two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding –worth $300 million– on financing Ukraine’s oil derivatives by the Saudi Fund for Development.
The agreements come as a part of an aid package first announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last October following phone talks with Zelensky. The kingdom has repeatedly called on both Russia and Ukraine to show restraint and advocates de-escalation of the ongoing crisis.
Since the beginning of the hostilities, Saudi Arabia has taken a neutral stance, maintaining ties with both sides. Specifically, it has been offering humanitarian support to Kiev while maintaining its relationship with OPEC+ member Moscow, striving to become a mediator in the conflict.
The neutral stance of the country was reiterated by the Saudi FM during his visit to Kiev. “We continue to discuss opportunities to settle the crisis with all parties,” Prince Faisal stated.
Zelensky Fires A Top Military Commander
A Reuters report said:
Ukrainian President Zelensky on Sunday fired a senior military commander helping lead the fight against Russian troops in the country’s embattled east but gave no reason for the move.
In a one-line decree, Zelensky announced the dismissal of Eduard Moskalyov as commander of the joint forces of Ukraine, which are engaged in battles in the Donbas region.
Zelensky mentioned Moskalyov in a daily address on Friday when listing the military commanders he had spoken to. Moskalyov had been in the post since March 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Neither the joint forces’ Facebook nor Twitter accounts made any mention of the dismissal.
Russian forces are making concerted efforts to capture the two eastern regions that make up the Donbas, and Zelenskiy has in recent weeks variously described the military situation in the east as difficult and painful.