People endorsing the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine have found themselves at the center of more than 140 investigations in Germany
Since February 24, authorities across multiple German regions have launched more than 140 investigations into acts seen as endorsements of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported on Monday, citing regional internal and justice ministers.
In the majority of cases, those suspected had displayed the letter ‘Z’, the ubiquitous marking on Russian equipment in Ukraine that has become a sign of support for Moscow’s offensive. In Saxony Anhalt, where the majority of cases are in the area of this letter, 17 out 19 of these cases concern the letter. However, the probes initiated by Hamburg were all for the same reason.
In a number of German regions, the ‘Z’ symbol has been deemed off limits since late February. A spokesperson for Saxony-Anhalt’s interior ministry told RND that “display of this symbol in public in connection with the Russian aggressive war leads to the launch of an investigation,” if the authorities construe the letter as an endorsement of Moscow’s actions.
German authorities invoke Section 140 of the country’s criminal code, according to which people endorsing the criminal acts of others can face a fine or even up to three years behind bars.
According to the outlet, the number of Russian sympathizer probes that have been launched in Germany over the past two months is probably higher than 140. This may be because not all regions keep a count of such instances. Bavaria’s Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich assured journalists that even though the area was not focusing on such cases, this did not mean the authorities were not pursuing the behavior. He noted that, while “freedom of expression is cherished in our constitution,”This is because everyone in Germany has the right to voice their opinions. “freedom of expression, however, ends where criminal law begins.”Eisenreich said that Bavarian officials would not accept it “when crimes against international law are endorsed.”
Rallyes supporting Russia took place in various German cities earlier this month. The majority of participants were either immigrants from the former Soviet Union or their children, but there were also German supporters of the Kremlin’s military operation present at the events. Protestors denounced Russophobia being rampant in Germany.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. French and German diplomats arranged protocols to grant the regions that broke away special status in the Ukrainian government. In recent years, the Kremlin demands that Ukraine be declared neutral in order to avoid being part of NATO’s US-led military bloc. Kiev claims that the Russian invasion was unprovoked. It also denies any plans to take the republics with force.
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