Pro-Russian rallies spread unease in Germany, rage in Ukraine
Demonstrators stand with Russian flags at the Taenzelfest square, the starting point of a pro-Russian motorcade. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa
Demonstrators stand with Russian flags at the Taenzelfest square, the starting point of a pro-Russian motorcade. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa

About 2,500 people were expected at a pair of pro-Russian events in Germany on Sunday, with organizers saying they are fighting against Russophobia, while onlookers worry about overt signs of support for the invasion of Ukraine.

About 2,000 people were expected at Frankfurt for a rally billed as being "against harassment and discrimination of Russian-speaking residents" and "against war - for peace."

Organizers had hoped to be accompanied by a convoy of 700 cars, but the city had ruled that out of order.

Further north, in Hanover, about 600 people with 350 cars gathered for a separate pro-Russia convoy. Many participants were waving both German and Russian flags. However, the start was delayed because police had decided that the cars' bonnets were not allowed to be covered by flags.

Germany has a large Russian-speaking population and several incidents of anti-Russian harassment have been reported since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

However, the recent move towards pro-Russia convoys has left Germans feeling uneasy, with many questioning whether they are not thinly disguised shows of support for the war. A similar convoy in Berlin on April 3 upset many, coming as it did on the same day as allegations of Russian war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine, were released.

Already, about 850 people had gathered for a counterdemonstration in Hanover. In Frankfurt, multiple smaller groups had gathered to protest the Russian invasion. Many participants were waving banners urging for Russia to be stopped and for an end to imports of Russian gas.

"We're not going to leave Frankfurt to the war supporters," urged one group of counterdemonstrators.

Pro-Ukraine demonstrators protest against a pro-Russian motorcade at Taenzelfest square. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa
Police officers regulate the departure of a pro-Russian motorcade from Taenzelfest square. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa
A woman holds a placard during a protest against a pro-Russian rally taking place at the same time. Boris Roessler/dpa
A woman holds a placad during a pro-Russian demonstration. Boris Roessler/dpa