Ukraine will prevail as Europe did in 1945, Scholz to say in VE Day speech
Ukraine will prevail over Russia as freedom prevailed over the Nazi dictatorship in 1945, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, will say in a TV address to mark the 77th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, in which he will accuse Vladimir Putin of falsifying history.
In the speech, which will be aired on German TV at 8.20pm CET (7.20pm BST) on Sunday, Scholz says the “legacy of 8 May” for his country must be to help to ensure that there will never again be genocide or tyranny in Europe.
“I am deeply convinced. Putin will not win the war,” the centre-left politician says. “Ukraine will prevail. Freedom and safety will win, just like freedom and safety triumphed over servitude, violence and dictatorship 77 years ago.”
Scholz says it is “falsifying history and disgraceful” of Russia’s president to equate his own “barbaric war of aggression” with the fight against National Socialism. “It is our duty to state this clearly,” his speech says.
In keeping with previous postwar German leaders’ messages on 8 May, Scholz thanks the Allied forces for their defeat of Nazi Germany, and says his country owes a debt to both Russia and Ukraine, which suffered millions of casualties in the second world war.
Scholz has repeatedly declared Germany’s support for Ukraine’s defensive effort but diplomatic relations between Berlin and Kyiv have been frosty. Ukrainian diplomats have accused his left-liberal coalition government of stalling over embargoes on Russian energy and deliveries of military hardware.
The chancellor, meanwhile, appeared personally piqued after Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, previously a Social Democratic party (SPD) ally, was told last month he was not welcome to visit Kyiv along with eastern European leaders.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week he had made up with Steinmeier and invited Scholz to pay a symbolic visit to Ukraine’s capital on 9 May. The German leader did not give any indication on Sunday of whether he was likely to accept or not.
Several European politicians have visited Ukraine since the start of the war in late February, including the leader of the German parliamentary opposition. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, made a surprise visit to Irpin on Sunday, and the US president’s wife, Jill Biden, met Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, during an unannounced visit to the west of the country.
In what she called an “icebreaker” visit, the president of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, also travelled to Kyiv on Sunday to commemorate the victims of the second world war, laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with her Ukrainian counterpart, Ruslan Stefanchuk, the chair of the Verkhovna Rada.
“To me this day is special because it does not merely commemorate but should serve to reconcile,” said Bas, whose presiding role over sessions in Germany’s legislature is comparable to that of the speaker in other parliaments.
The SPD politician said her visit was meant to commemorate all victims of the second world war, those in Ukraine as well as Russia, Poland, Belarus, the Baltic States and other states in central and eastern Europe.
Public figures in Berlin, meanwhile, stayed away from gatherings to mark the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender over fears that commemorative events could be used for propaganda purposes.
“The situation is very oppressive, and any commemorations have to take that into account,” said Berlin’s mayor, Franziska Giffey, justifying her and her senators’ absence at the traditional laying of wreaths at the Soviet War Memorial in the city’s Treptower Park.
The Russian embassy in the German capital, which has organised the event in the past, has not made its plans public this year because of security concerns.
Germany’s surrender is traditionally celebrated in western Europe on 8 May, but because time zones it is marked on 9 May in Russia, Belarus, Serbia and Israel.
Berlin’s senator for interior affairs, Iris Spranger, said police would seek to suppress any public displays of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 8 and 9 May, including the beeping of horns at car rallies.
About 1,000 people attended a pro-Russia rally at Cologne’s Fühlinger lake on Sunday, waving the red-white-and-blue flag of the modern Russian republic and the red flag of the former Soviet Union.
The display of Russian flags in the vicinity of 15 memorial sites in Berlin was banned.
The city’s decision to also include Ukrainian flags in its ban has been heavily criticised by the country’s ambassador to Germany. Andrij Melnyk said the ban, which exempts flag displays by diplomats, was “a slap in the face of the Ukrainian people”.