Activists park burnt-out tank outside Russian Embassy in Berlin

Anti-war activists on Friday parked a bombed-out Russian tank in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, as thousands of protesters across Europe prepared to march against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian tank outside Russian embassy
The wreck of a Russian tank destroyed near Kyiv, brought outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Enno Lenze

Enno Lenze and Wieland Giebel, who operate the Berlin Story Museum, said they had stationed the tank wreck by Russia’s imposing embassy off the Brandenburg Gate ‘as a symbol of Russia’s downfall’.

“We want to put their scrap metal in front of the gates of the terrorists,” said Giebel, who for months was caught in a bureaucratic tangle with Berlin authorities over the tank installation, after Lenze had the idea to bring it to Berlin after finding it at the side of the road near Kyiv.

The tank was damaged on March 31st last year near Bucha, the town near Kyiv which has become a byword for alleged Russian war crimes.

Sabine Ertl, a tourist on holiday in Berlin, said the tank was both “impressive and scary”.

“It brings this reality much closer,” she told AFP.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Oleksii Makeiev was also on hand at the tank protest to thank Lenze and Giebel.

“Don’t panic,” he tweeted. “The Russian T-72 tank previously sighted in Berlin has already been destroyed by Ukrainian forces so this death machine could no longer pose a threat to the people of Europe.”

Admiring the protest action, one Twitter user quipped that the tank had been “returned to sender” after a failed delivery to Ukraine. “This Russian tank was refused acceptance in Ukraine and returned to the Russian Embassy in Berlin,” he wrote.

The demonstration not only drew the attention of passers by – a group of Ukrainian children also came to sing next to the destroyed military vehicle. 

Zelensky to speak to Ukraine’s supporters in Germany

At an event led by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who underlined that Kyiv could count on Berlin, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky beamed in a message thanking Western allies for their support for his country.

Zelensky was also due to address demonstrators in Berlin later Friday via video-link. Massive pro-Ukraine demonstrations are scheduled to happen all over Germany late Friday afternoon.

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: Germany must show ‘leadership and vision’ for Ukraine

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Germany orders four Russian consulates on its soil closed

Germany will drastically reduce Moscow's diplomatic presence on its soil after Russia slashed the number of people Berlin can employ in its embassies and institutions in Russia, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

Germany orders four Russian consulates on its soil closed

“We have decided to withdraw consent for the operation of four of the five Russian consulates operating in Germany,” the spokesman told a regular government press conference.

“This was communicated to the Russian foreign ministry today,” he added.

The German foreign ministry said at the weekend that hundreds of civil servants and local employees working for German institutions in Russia had been asked to leave the country.

Moscow had put a 350 limit on the number of German personnel in Russia, said the foreign ministry spokesman.

“In order to be able to meet the Russian requirements for limiting our staff, the government has decided to close the German consulates in Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk,” the spokesman said on Wednesday.

Operations will be considerably reduced and will be discontinued by November, he said.

Germany’s embassy in Moscow and its consulate in St Petersburg will not be affected.

“For the Russian presence in Germany, our decisions apply reciprocally… in order to ensure a balance of the mutual presences both in terms of personnel and structure,” the spokesman said.

According to the German foreign ministry, Russia will slash the number of people that Berlin can employ in its embassies or institutions in Russia in the education and cultural sectors starting from June.

Several hundred people are affected, including officials from the embassy and consulate, but mostly employees of the Goethe cultural institute in the country, German schools and nurseries, the ministry said.

READ ALSO: Germany justifies expulsion of Russian diplomats over espionage threats