Berlin Police Restrict Ukrainian Language at Protest

English and German were reportedly offered as options, but pro-Kiev protesters were left “outraged”

Berlin police prohibited Ukrainians protesting outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin from delivering speeches in Ukrainian, citing the need to protect law and order, according to local media reports.

People gathered in front of Russia’s diplomatic mission in central Berlin on Monday in a “spontaneous” demonstration against a deadly missile incident involving a children’s hospital in Kiev earlier in the day, according to the Berliner-Kurier newspaper.

Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky has accused Russia of deliberately targeting the hospital. Moscow has dismissed the allegations, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressing on Tuesday that Russia does not strike civilian targets. The Russian Defense Ministry has said the incident was caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile falling on the facility, and has dismissed Kiev’s accusations as “absolutely untrue.” 

The demonstration in Berlin was organized by Ukrainian NGO Vitsche and involved “hundreds of people,” Bild reported. The participants chanted “Long live Ukraine” in Ukrainian several times, the outlet added.

However, according to the NGO’s spokeswoman, Maria Borysenko, as quoted by the Berliner-Kurier, the demonstrators were “not allowed to give any speeches in Ukrainian.” The ban left the protesters “outraged” as many of them don’t speak German well, the outlet added.

Berlin police issued the ban because they could not find an interpreter at short notice, having agreed to speeches being given in German or English, Bild reported.

“The police are responsible for maintaining law and order,” Nikolas von Bulow, a consultant at the Berlin police operations and situation center, told the Berliner-Kurier. He noted that the demonstration was registered “spontaneously” at around 1 p.m. local time. As a rule, people can apply for permission to hold a rally 48 hours in advance, added von Bulow.

There is no law in Germany that requires participants in a demonstration to use a particular language, although police can impose restrictions if they believe public safety or order is at risk, Bild noted. To prevent inflammatory slogans, speeches in German or English are sometimes required if no interpreter is available, the tabloid added.