If Putin hadn’t invaded Ukraine, the small Baltic Sea resort of Lubmin would now be the place from which much of Germany’s gas would be distributed. FOCUS online drove to the small village between Rügen and Usedom and wanted to know from the people of Lubmin how it feels to sit at the gas well and not have any of it just before winter.
Time is not the problem for the three anglers who pull perch after perch out of the water on this balmy, sunny November morning in the Lubmin harbor. The scenery doesn’t bother her either. In the south, a stone’s throw away, the ruins of what was once the largest GDR nuclear power plant tear apart the coastal panorama. And the tangle of pipes of the Russian natural gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 directly opposite on the east bank of the harbor basin and Nord Stream 2 behind the anglers on the west bank don’t make it any better.
The problem with these three men is that they seem to have anger in their stomachs. Because after a few friendly tips about fishing, they’ll tight-lipped. None of them want to speak openly with a reporter about shut down or destroyed gas pipelines, Putin’s war against Ukraine or sanctions against Russia. And also not about the pro-Russian protests with thousands of people that have already taken place twice in Lubmin. And a third of which is planned for this weekend in the Kurpark.
One who likes to talk is called Hans-Ulrich Roggow. The retired power plant engineer has been running a beach chair rental in a disused LPG chicken coop on the outskirts of Lubmin for 18 years. “I bought my first beach chairs in GDR times,” says the 73-year-old with a full white beard proudly, sitting down in one of the baskets in the chicken coop that had been mothballed for the winter and adjusting his dark blue baseball cap over a moss-green bomber jacket.
As far as the approaching winter is concerned, Roggow is somewhat relaxed. “We are feeling the energy price increases and general inflation just like everyone else in Germany.” But the people of Lubmin are no more dependent on gas here than anywhere else. Because it was only with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Lubmin a few years ago that gas pipelines began to be laid across the country. And there would be no special prices just because the Russian gas arrives in the small Baltic Sea village via two pipelines. “My wife and I also have a new gas line at home. But we haven’t used them for prices yet. We also have oil heating and tiled stoves for coal and wood.”
What makes Roggow angry, however, are pro-Russian demonstrations in Lubmin. “We know today that Ms. Merkel and GroKo made mistakes in energy policy. But these demonstrations are not my thing,” complains the pensioner. The only thing Lubmin would get from it is a reputation it doesn’t deserve. “I wasn’t at the demos myself, but I’ve heard that only a handful of Lubminers are supposed to be there. The crowd comes from outside, even from Munich! This is demo tourism that attracts right-wing extremists from all over Germany and publicly denigrates our place as a ‘right-wing extremist nest’.”
Even master carpenter Björn Kastner wants nothing to do with right-wing extremists, lateral thinkers and their “screams”. But for the robust 50-year-old, who has been a member of the Lubmin municipal council for the CDU for a long time, the participation of this clientele, who even openly display Russian flags and play drums, which makes an “impression”, is no reason not to attend the demos to go. And this despite the fact that it is being organized by a highly controversial person with an AfD background. The organizer is a 52-year-old from Greifswald who used to work for an AfD member of parliament and was then thrown out of the party, which is being monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution because of right-wing extremist tendencies.
Kastner does not hesitate to openly justify his participation: “People here are very frustrated with the high energy prices. In my view, the sanctions against Russia were a mistake. And it was a mistake by the federal government to turn off the gas tap for Putin,” says the CDU council member, who began his party career at the age of 18 immediately after reunification by putting up election posters for the Union. Kastner admits that he is also at odds with his own party. “I was also against arms deliveries. Without them, it might have been a three-day ‘lightning war’ against Ukraine. But now it’s too late. Putin would have invaded Ukraine anyway, the Russians just do their thing.”
With a view to the demonstration participants, Kastner also contradicts Hans-Ulrich Roggow. “I was at both demos and saw a lot of Lubminers there, a completely normal cross-section of the local community.” He believes the participation would be even higher if many would not “stay away out of fear”, then from one or the other neighbor not to be spoken to once they were seen there.
For the time being, Kastner is not worried about a cold winter. Business is still going. Like many other long-established families in Lubmin, his family also owns a piece of forest from which wood can be cut for heating. But for the coming year he sees economic black. Although they have “many small orders such as sealing windows and doors, which the citizens are now catching up on because of the high energy prices”. But he has never experienced such a decline in large orders. “I’ve always been an optimist. But there hasn’t been much of that left over the past few years,” explains master carpenter Kastner.
On the other hand, Katrin Krüger, pastor of the Petri Church in the small seaside resort in the extreme north-east of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, was stunned by such an “unsuspecting” participation in the Lubmin demos. “Where is the criticism from the people? After Pegida and the lateral thinkers around Corona, a protest movement from the right is emerging again, and nobody is protesting against it,” Lubmin’s pastor is annoyed. Nor does she understand that at such demos, flat slogans such as “The government must go” immediately appeared. “The current government has only been in office for a year. What can she do about it?
What leaves Pastor Krüger stunned, however, are the demonstrators’ demands for the federal government to simply open the valves at the Nord Stream 2 gas distribution station again. “I can’t and don’t want to understand that these people really don’t care about the fate of the Ukrainians, along the lines of: ‘Let Putin take part of the country from the Ukrainians, the main thing is that we have it warm and cheap again’. I would really like to know what these people would say if someone took their home away from them in this way.”
However, the pastor is not worried about the organization of her work in the church community in times of the energy crisis. “Fortunately, our congregation with choir, confirmands and churchgoers survived the Corona period unscathed and united,” said the pastor.
As far as heating the interior of the church is concerned, she had agreed with the congregation to lower the average temperature by two degrees from 19 to 17 degrees. Otherwise, the heating bill in the community would have been three times higher, which nobody could afford. “I think it’s reasonable for everyone to put on an extra sweater and a pair of thick socks in these times.” In this way, one would not only help the people in Ukraine, but also make a contribution to climate protection.