What is known?
The tragic event took place on February 10 in the evening. The attackers, armed with knives, attacked two young basketball players from Ukraine who, after the start of the full-scale invasion, continued their careers in Germany. As a result of the attack, both athletes sustained numerous injuries, and unfortunately, for one of them, they became fatal.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Oleh Nikolenko commented on the incident. He said that German police had detained the alleged attacker of Ukrainian basketball players Volodymyr Yermakov and Artem Kozachenko.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has taken special control of the investigation into the murder of a Ukrainian basketball player in Germany. The Consulate General in Düsseldorf has already held talks with the head of the Essen police. The consuls emphasized the need for a speedy investigation and bringing the perpetrator to justice. According to available information, the police have already detained the attacker. Investigative actions are currently underway. The consular office also monitors the treatment of another injured Ukrainian. He is being provided with the necessary medical care in the Essen hospital. The condition of our citizen is stable, there are no threats to his life,” said Nikolenko.
Earlier it was reported that the tragic incident occurred in Dusseldorf, Germany . Volodymyr Yermakov and Artem Kozachenko were playing for the local youth team ART Giants (U-19).
“On the eve of the next match, they were attacked with knives in the street simply because they were Ukrainians. The whole team spent the night in the hospital next to our guys. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to save Yermakov, and Kozachenko remains in intensive care. The local police are already investigating the case, and there were witnesses at the crime scene,” – the Kyiv Basketball Federation notes.
Attacks on Ukrainians in Germany
In Germany, attacks on Ukrainians have become regular because of the very large Russian diaspora and the tolerance of these manifestations by the German authorities on the ground. According to the BBC, on the one hand, the attacks are explained by the significant increase in Ukrainian refugees in Germany after the outbreak of Russia’s war against Ukraine. But on the other hand, this may indicate a dangerous trend, as a significant number of attacks are politically motivated.
Germany, unfortunately, for many years hosted Russians and gave them wide autonomy and tolerated them. Russians were not forced to learn German, and they were given the opportunity to continue to depend on Russian propaganda for information, which led to quite a bit of xenophobia among Russians towards other nationalities, and even towards Germans themselves. The German police are trying very hard not to provoke Russians and to “pacify” those who complain about them. Even if the Russians cross all the boundaries of legality and morality. Against this background, many Germans also began to empathize with the Russians and hate the Ukrainians for not “surrendering” to Putin when he attacked independent Ukraine.
Such xenophobia against Ukrainians is more pronounced in the eastern part of Germany, in the territories that were annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II.
In particular, some Ukrainians write the following (according to the BBC):
“It was 8:40 in the morning, I was riding the escalator in the subway to my German lesson. Suddenly, a man much bigger than me overtook me, started giving me the middle finger and shouting in German that I was a Nazi,” this is how a January morning in Berlin began for Ukrainian Artem.
A few minutes later, the men find themselves on the platform, Artem takes out his phone to film everything, the man continues to shout, takes the phone away, and eventually punches the Ukrainian in the face several times. After that, he gets into a subway car and rides away.
He attributes the attack to Ukrainian symbols – he has a blue and yellow badge on his backpack. He went to the police, who registered his statement, photographed the traces of the blow, and promised to find video footage from the subway cameras that would confirm his words.
Artem was attacked a few days after another attack in the subway – two Ukrainian women, 24 and 25 years old, were traveling in a car during the day when Russian-speaking men started cursing them. The women got out of the car at Alexanderplatz station, in the very center of Berlin, and the men followed them and hit one of the girls in the head. The attackers disappeared, and the police opened an assault case.
Another case involved the owner of a Ukrainian restaurant, Angela. According to her, the flow of harassment has not stopped for more than a year, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. “Every day, different people call me from a hidden number, in Russian, and they are foul-mouthed.
But one day a man called and asked me calmly in German: “You don’t want any problems, do you? Why did you hang two fascist flags on the windows?” This is how he referred to the flags of Ukraine that Angela hung on the windows of the restaurant on February 24. At first she took them off, but returned them a few days later, after which unknown persons broke into her restaurant at night and smashed everything inside except the windows.
“We have nothing to steal, except for the dumplings in the fridge. I called the police, told them about the call, and they told me: “Yes, why are you provoking, take down the flags.” I took it down again, and then I felt so offended, so I put it back up again, but with one flag, so that there would be fewer problems.”
Pressure on Ukrainians in Germany
The Ukrainian community in Berlin has grown significantly in recent years, as the city has received the largest number of refugees due to the war. Ukrainian activists are uniting non-governmental organizations and communities that hold patriotic events, help refugees, and collect humanitarian and other aid for Ukraine and Ukrainian defenders.
One of these organizations is the Vitsche association of young Ukrainians in Germany, which organizes large-scale protests and cultural and educational events.
According to Eva Yakubovska, a member of the organization’s board, over the year of their activities, activists have repeatedly turned to law enforcement agencies for help because of pressure and threats. Members of the organization have been repeatedly attacked and their homes have been broken into by unknown persons.
In 2022, the Berlin police recorded 3,430 cases of appeals involving Ukrainians. This is twice as many as in 2021, when there were 1515 such cases. As of January 2023, 342 cases have already been reported.
The police explain the increase in such cases as “a significant flow of refugees from Ukraine due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.” However, the Alliance of Ukrainian Organizations in Germany claims that Ukrainians are victims of crime more often than other ethnic groups.
For example, in Berlin, the number of Ukrainian victims of attacks with bodily harm is 2.5 times higher than that of other groups. They assume that these are hate crimes, although the police avoid such wording.
“People don’t feel comfortable, it’s becoming dangerous to wear Ukrainian symbols,” says Eva from Viche. – “And Russians feel protected, because no one in the subway will say a word to a Russian who shouts ‘whore, banderite’ at a Ukrainian woman. He will speak German, and the newcomer will obviously not always. And in a state of shock, you can’t immediately respond to the attacker or ask other passengers for help.”
According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, in 2020, about 3.5 million Russian speakers lived in the country: these include late immigrants (ethnic Germans), the second generation of migrants, and people from the former Soviet Union.
In the heart of Berlin is the Russian House of Culture and Science, which was investigated by German prosecutors at the beginning of the year. In different parts of the German capital, you can come across Russian shops, and in the Charlottenburg district (also called “Charlottenagrad” because of the large number of Russian migrants) there is a huge “Russia” store.
In the first nine months of 2023 alone, 1515 attacks took place against refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine, as well as migrant hostels. Over the entire year of 2022, 1371 attacks were recorded, DW writes.
Ukrainians are beginning to be afraid to wear Ukrainian symbols on the streets of German cities, which is not the case with Russians, who draw their Z’s everywhere alongside Russian symbols and promote violence against Ukrainians in every way possible.
The German authorities and police are still reluctant to address these issues, continuing to punish Russians conditionally, because Russian propaganda in this “civilized” European country is very powerful.