Thousands of protesters show solidarity for Ukraine in Amsterdam
Protesters formed a sea of blue and yellow as they chanted “shelter our skies” and “war ends now” under the dome of the Koninklijk Paleis in Amsterdam’s Dam Square Sunday afternoon. The demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine garnered a turnout estimated at 15,000, according to the ANP, with crowds spilling into the side streets surrounding the square. Many of the protesters were Russian people who do not support the war and the government.
The atmosphere was solemn, but conversations in many different languages could still be heard. “A week ago, I would never have thought this would happen,” one onlooker told another. Children held blue and yellow balloons and protestors raised signs to the sky reading “No time to wait” and “Act now!”
Katya Diks stood wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, smiling as she watched a little girl join the chants from her father’s shoulders. Diks, who moved from Ukraine to the Netherlands over 20 years ago, still has friends and family in Kyiv and other cities who are constantly on her mind, she said. For her, the protest was a welcome outlet for taking action.
“Every morning you wake up and immediately check the news on your phone,” Diks said. “You can’t sleep. You are constantly checking the news.”
She also brought a tote bag filled with donations to drop off with the Ukrainians in the Netherlands Foundation, which was collecting food and medicine in the square. “I didn’t have anything at home, so I just took soap and toothpaste and those kinds of things,” Diks said.
Amsterdammers were not the only ones to turn up to the protest: Diks said friends of hers had traveled from The Hague as well. “Everyone is coming,” she said.
Another protestor, Julija Smitaite –– who describes herself as “25 percent Russian, 25 percent Ukrainian, the rest Lithuanian” –– held a banner reading “Lithuania stands with Ukraine.” She was joined by at least 10 other Lithuanians holding similar signs.
Lithuanians have always felt solidarity with Ukrainians, as both are post-Soviet states, said Smitaite, who was eight years old in 1991 when Soviet tanks rolled into Lithuania’s capital.
“Ukrainians were there for Lithuanians when we fought for our independence,” she said. “People went into the streets like this. There is definitely a brother and sister kind of relationship with Ukraine.”
However, Smitaite believed the demonstration could also have used more support from Dutch people. While she thinks most people in the Netherlands oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions, she said she was not sure how much they’d be willing to go outside their comfort zones to protest.
Other protesters also drew on their experiences coming from post-Soviet countries. A group of demonstrators from Georgia drew parallels between Russia’s actions in their country and Ukraine as they waved Georgian flags. The Russo-Georgian war took place in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia after two border regions declared they were independent states. More than 13 years later, Russia still occupies and controls the regions, according to the European Court of Human Rights.
“We want the world to hear our voices, to stop this unprovoked and unfair war,” said Mariam Makishvili.
Her friend David Kakoishvili expressed his frustration toward Western leaders. “They do not want to understand what Russia means,” he said. “Yet we experienced it during the Soviet Union. Western leaders should support Eastern European countries.”
Protesters held a moment of silence at 3:30 p.m. and at the busiest point, the entire Dam Square was full, a spokesperson told the ANP. Smitaite said she hoped the momentum would continue. “I know people are ready to come here day and night,” she said.
Another protest is scheduled in The Hague at 11 a.m. on Monday outside the Tweede Kamer building at Bezuidenhoutseweg 67, according to the Ukrainians in the Netherlands Foundation.