Disinfo cocktail: rally at ‘b2502’ and flowers on the Russian tank

Flowers on a destroyed Russian tank in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Steffi Loos/Getty Images

On the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a museum in Berlin placed a wrecked Russian tank in front of the Russian Embassy. The tank serves as a symbol of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and President Putin’s “downfall.”

But on February 25, a different kind of message emerged from the same location. Germany’s socialists and far-right parties held a “Rebellion for Peace” rally, calling for negotiations with Putin and demanding that Germany stop providing military aid to Ukraine.

The rally’s organizers, renegade socialist politician Sahra Wegenknecht and writer Alice Schwarzen, claimed that negotiations were the only way to avoid World War III. Meanwhile, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) used the rally as an opportunity to promote its pro-Russian agenda, falsely claiming that 50,000 people attended the event.

In reality, only 10,000 to 13,000 people attended the protest, according to reputable news agencies.
The Guardian published photographs of people wrapped in Ukrainian flags and carrying banners that read “Stop Putin’s War,” “Help Ukraine defend itself,” and “Not delivering weapons to Ukraine is the equivalent to genocide support.” Many Ukraine sympathizers came to the “Rebellion for Peace” rally to protest against its pro-Russian agenda, the newspaper reported.

Videos shared on Twitter showed AfD members trying to prevent Ukrainian supporters from raising their banners. AfD leader Joerg Urban was photographed at the rally holding a white paper pigeon, a symbol of peace.

On Twitter, the AfD party used the hashtag “b2502” (i.e. “Brandenburg, February 25”) to claim that 50,000 attended the rally.

The AfD has long been accused of having ties with the Kremlin. Urban was among the AfD leaders who visited Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory at Moscow’s invitation. He has also claimed that Germany must remain “homogeneous” to survive as a nation.

In Russia, state media reported that the Berlin rally was a show of support for Russia. Reports focused on the rusted tank in front of the Russian embassy, which was covered in red roses laid by thousands of Berliners, according to Yevgeny Popov, host of “60 Minutes,” a highly-watched talk show on Channel 1 state television.

Alexander von Bismarck, a well-known German supporter of Vladimir Putin, explained that it was members of his group who brought the flowers to the tank. He said the gesture was to show the German government that negotiations with Russia were necessary.

The “Rebellion for Peace” rally was widely criticized in Germany, with Finance Minister Christian Lindner saying its organizers were “on the wrong side of history” and Social Democratic Party representative Katja Mast accusing them of serving Russian propaganda.

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