Updated Mar 2, 2023, 10:48am EST

Red roses on wrecked Russian tanks are causing controversy in Europe

A protester next to remains of a destroyed Russian T-72 tank in Berlin on Feb. 24, 2023
REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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The News

In country capitals across Europe, the display of burned-out Russian tanks is drawing attention and controversy.

The tanks, on exhibit in four public plazas, are intended as a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invasion. But in an apparent show of support for Moscow, some have placed red roses on the tanks, leading to confrontations and condemnations from public officials.

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Ukraine’s defense ministry announced last week that the burned-out tanks would be placed in Berlin as well as the capitals of the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Associated Press reported.

Last year, the tanks were put on display in Poland and the Czech Republic.

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The View From Lithuania

In the capital of Vilnius, city authorities put a trash can near the tank while some Russians put flowers on the tank, according to the AP. A sign with the trash can stated: “for flowers, candles & Soviet nostalgia.”


A man was reportedly beaten for removing flowers from the tank, prompting a police investigation. In another incident Tuesday, a man sprayed the tank with red color.

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The View From Estonia

A burned-out Russian tank has been in Tallinn’s Freedom Square since last weekend. Kusti Salm, the secretary general of Estonia’s Ministry of Defense, said this week that flowers brought to the tank won’t be tolerated, ERR news reported.

“Never again will flowers next to a Russian tank be a positive symbol in Estonia,” Salm said. He added that the purpose of the tank display “is to emphasize that Ukraine must win this war.”

A video showed a security official turning someone away as he tried to put a flower on the tank in Tallinn.

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The View From Germany

In Berlin, the tank was placed near the Brandenburg Gate — and the Russian embassy. The Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported that on Saturday, several dozen people showed up with buckets of roses and began placing them around the tank.


Around the same time, the Russian embassy tweeted a thank-you message to “our compatriots in Germany” who put flowers on the tank. It led to speculation that Russian authorities orchestrated an effort to add the flowers — an allegation the embassy later denied.

In response to the roses, some placed photos of Ukrainians who have been killed in the war.

The display led to a few isolated confrontations and fights, the newspaper reported. At one point, a man tried to hang a Russian flag on the tank; a policeman quickly removed it.