HANNOVER/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Around 600 pro-Russian protesters in a 350-car motorcade took part in a demonstration in Hanover, northern Germany, on Sunday, where there was also a counter-protest of around 700 people supporting Ukraine in the city center, local police said.

The motorcade, displaying Russian flags and some German flags, protests against discrimination in Germany against Russians following the invasion of Ukraine.

Police said fences had been erected to separate pro-Russian protesters from the counter-protest and they added that protests had been peaceful so far.

According to government statistics at the end of 2020, approximately 235,000 Russian citizens live in Germany. About 135,000 Ukrainians lived in Germany before the Russian invasion, according to statistics, but around 300,000 more have arrived since the invasion.

In Frankfurt, pro-Russian protesters gathered for a march through the city center after local authorities refused to allow a motorcade, local media reported.

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Counter-protesters gathered in two other locations in Frankfurt, with “Stop War” banners and Ukrainian flags painted on their faces.

Frankfurt police said it was too early to provide estimates of the number of protests. Local authorities were expecting around 2,000 people at the pro-Russian march.

Local authorities had warned ahead of the protests that while protesters were allowed to assemble, Russian war propaganda or endorsement of Russian aggression would not be tolerated, local media reported.

“We will not allow our fundamental right to assemble and demonstrate to be exploited for Russian war propaganda on German streets,” Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius told local media on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent troops to Ukraine in what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

(Reporting by Fabian Bimmer and Erol Dogrudogan in Hanover, Kai Pfaffenbach, Andreas Burger and Frank Simon in Frankfurt, Victoria Waldersee in Berlin. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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