Berlin police roll up Ukraine flag at WWII ceremony
Police on Sunday rolled up a giant Ukrainian flag displayed by demonstrators at a Soviet War Memorial in central Berlin, saying it was to ensure that a WWII commemoration ceremony stayed peaceful.
Berlin police have imposed a ban on displays of flags or military symbols at 15 memorial sites across the capital, including at the iconic site at the central Tiergarten park and another in Treptower Park.
Germany has already outlawed the display of the "Z" symbol used by the Russian army in their invasion of Ukraine.
But Berlin police have gone further with additional measures on Sunday and Monday, as tensions run high over possible pro-Russian demonstrations on the two highly symbolic days commemorating the defeat of the Nazis and the end of World War II.
Berlin's decision had sparked strong criticisms from some, including from the Ukrainian ambassador Andrij Melnyk who called it a "catastrophic politically wrong decision".
Under heavy police presence, the Ukrainian embassy on Sunday held a commemoration ceremony at the imposing Soviet memorial in Tiergarten park.
Counter-protesters gathered outside the cordoned off area, some chanting "Melnyk out" while others shouted "Slava Ukraini" (Glory to Ukraine).
As guests of the embassy were allowed to display flags, that sparked "expressions of discontent among bystanders," said police.
"In order to secure the peaceful, dignified commemoration, our colleagues rolled up a 25m-long Ukrainian flag," they added on Twitter.
Some 1,600 police officers have been deployed in Berlin alone on Sunday amid dozens of expected protests across the capital.
Likewise on Monday, they will be out in force, with 1,800 officers on the ground.