In the face of the rapid escalation of the war in the Ukraine, tens of thousands come together in Berlin to protest for peace

People at the anti-war demonstration near Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor express their opinion of Putin’s aggression. Photograph: Christine Madden

Twenty thousand were expected. But then more than 100,000 people massed in the centre of Berlin on 27 February to show solidarity with the Ukraine. On a day when Russian president Putin issued a not so veiled nuclear threat in retaliation, he says, for NATO aggression.

Angry demonstrators chant anti-war and anti-Putin slogans in front of the Russian Embassy on Unter den Linden in central Berlin. Photograph: Christine Madden

According to the Russian media, who are not allowed to use the word “war”, what is going on in the Ukraine is an “operation to secure peace”. Still, in about 50 Russian cities, people also came together to protest the “operation”. 

Protestors at the anti-war demonstration at Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor. Photograph: Christine Madden

Shortly before the demonstration started, the German government, in a special convocation of the Bundestag (parliament), announced a number of measures to isolate Russia and block its aggression, many of them complete turnarounds from policies they had held even days before. 

More than 100,000 protestors gathered on the Straße des 17. Juni to show solidarity with the Ukraine. Photograph: Christine Madden

Not far away, more than a hundred thousand people streamed from the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations, cycled or walked into city centre with their signs and flags. Infants, children, young adults, the elderly, they came pushing bikes and prams, some accompanied by their dogs, to show solidarity with the Ukrainians, anger at Putin, and hope and desire for peace. In this anxious, fraught moment, where we all hope politicians will hold their nerve, make wise decisions and avert catastrophe, the ability to come together (especially after years of covid-enforced isolation) felt like a hymn to humanity.

Wings of peace: demonstrator at the Brandenburger Tor. Photograph: Christine Madden