Merkel marks 80 years since Nazi invasion of Soviet Union | News | DW | 19.06.2021

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Merkel marks 80 years since Nazi invasion of Soviet Union

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the June 1941 invasion as a cause for "shame." In her weekly video podcast, she also criticized modern-day crackdowns in Russia and Belarus.

Angela Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel called next week's 80th anniversary "an occasion for shame"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday looked ahead to next week's 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, calling it "an occasion for shame."

In her video podcast, she also criticized the ongoing crackdown against political opposition figures and civil society in Russia and Belarus.

What did Merkel say about the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union?

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's commemorations, Merkel noted how millions lost their lives — especially in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states and other former Soviet republics —  when Adolf Hitler's forces invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

German soldiers are pictured on the offensive in Russia in 1941

German soldiers are pictured on the offensive in Russia in 1941

"For us Germans, this day is an occasion for shame," Merkel said. "We owe that to the millions of victims and their descendants."

Merkel criticizes repression in Russia and Belarus

Merkel offered gratitude for "reconciliation" while criticizing ongoing crackdowns against opposition figures and civil society in Russia and Belarus.

She called the repressions painful, noting "how civil society engagement in Russia, but also in Belarus, has recently been restricted, even made impossible."

"When peaceful demonstrators and ... opposition members are locked away, it puts a heavy strain on our relations," Merkel said.

Pro-Russian sympathizers bearing a Russian flag march past pro-Ukrainian sympathizers gathered and waving Ukrainian flags as Russia's invasion of Crimea took place in Simferopol, Crimea in March of 2014

Pro-Russian sympathizers bearing a Russian flag march past pro-Ukrainian sympathizers gathered and waving Ukrainian flags as Russia's invasion of Crimea took place in Simferopol, Crimea in March of 2014

The invasion of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine violated international law, she added. For Germany and the EU, Merkel said the situation was unacceptable.

By contrast, Merkel observed how Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, emphasized policies of perestroika and glasnost, or reform and openness, which enabled the reunification of Germany in 1990 and civil society ties between Russia and Germany.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989 ushering in the reunifiication of Germany in 1990

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989 ushering in the reunifiication of Germany in 1990

"We continue to need dialogue with Russia," Merkel said, adding challenges like the pandemic and global warming highlight the need for international cooperation.

How is Germany marking the anniversary on June 22?

On the 80th anniversary Tuesday, a wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin-Pankow.

On Friday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke at the German-Russian Museum in Berlin-Karlshorst.

The museum is located at the site where the German Wehrmacht signed the unconditional surrender to representatives of the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain and France on May 8, 1945.

Watch video 02:09

Steinmeier marks 80 years since Nazi invasion of Soviet Union

Steinmeier was present to open an exhibition at the museum titled, "Dimensions of a Crime: Soviet Prisoners of War in World War II."

The Wehrmacht captured approximately 5.7 million Soviet prisoners of war with an estimated three million dying in captivity.

While representatives from the 15 countries comprising the former Soviet Union were invited to partake, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk declined the invitation citing the exhibit's focus on Russia.

Melnyk said countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states were "simply ignored."

ar/mm (AFP, dpa)