Behind the gate of the Russian embassy in The Hague, two men walk through the garden, one in a suit, one with an army green cap. “Shame on you! Shame on you!” it sounds immediately from the sidewalk across the street.
Dozens of protesters, mostly Ukrainian expats, have gathered. Blue and yellow flags were thrown around him. Women with traditional floral wreaths. Protest signs like ‘Putin Killer’.
One of the women says: “We’ve been hearing disturbing reports from relatives from Kiev all morning about explosions and sirens.” What she expects from our government: “Maximum support for our country against this aggression.”
We are just talking about sanctions and gas prices, when the group suddenly starts to sing the national anthem, very dramatic and behave: “Sjtsje ne vmerla Ukrajiny…” ‘Ukraine has not perished yet.’ Tears, arms around each other. Then there is movement again, now behind a window, and the anger is back in full: “Shame on you!”
After all those emotions, our Dutch concerns about the gas price seem inappropriate, but the woman understands. “That the sanctions are hurting ourselves shows that the world has become far too dependent on Vladimir Putin.”
Research platform Follow the Money already picked out last year how far the power of the Russian Gazprom reaches in the Netherlands. Almost half of our municipalities are customers there. Human rights and environmental organizations are therefore started a petition which calls for termination of those contracts. It already felt uncomfortable. Now that you know that you are filling the Russian war chest with your own stove and central heating boiler, it is untenable. And thus? Pump up more gas from Groningen?
If only we had started building an extra nuclear power station right after the annexation of Crimea. MH17 should have been a turning point on the road to an energy-independent Europe. But the Netherlands only started to rely more heavily on Putin’s energy infusion. Groningen will inevitably be hit by the war and by our own negligence in the energy transition
In the coming period, it will become increasingly visible how we are linked to Russia in other areas as well. Once again we get the flaws in that whole global fossil fuel mikado system in our face. The corona crisis already exposed them, but it is apparently a utopia to think that we can really make a change.
Three students cycle past the Russian embassy and raise their middle fingers towards the building. Loud cheers and applause from the group.
It is time for the whole of the Netherlands to raise the middle finger. To start with against Gazprom. Refusing to finance this war, that must be feasible, right, as a moral minimum?
Christian Weijts writes a column every Friday in this place.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of February 25, 2022