Almost a year ago, the T-72B tank was destroyed by Ukrainian soldiers during the Battle of Kyiv. The tank has been traveling through Europe ever since. After Warsaw, Berlin, Prague and Groesbeek, the green and now rust-colored tank will be in Amsterdam until June 5, at the initiative of debate center De Balie.
Mayor Halsema started her speech on Thursday afternoon with: “This tank should not be here.” “No, so get rid of it!” dozens of demonstrators shouted through her. They are against the war and find it ridiculous that the tank is on Leidseplein.
For the contrast
But the tank is on Leidseplein precisely because of the contrast, Halsema said. “Numerous Amsterdammers and visitors come here every day to sniff out culture, to discuss, to be entertained, to meet each other. This Russian tank is the symbol of the opposite of this freedom. When you see this tank here in this place, the cold beats you to the heart. And that is exactly the intention.”
A number of protesters continued to shout through the mayor. He asked for respect, at least for the ambassador of Ukraine who was also present. She promised to talk to a woman after her speech.
Halsema continued that the tank is a warning. “Placing this tank is not a gesture of triumph, but a gesture of pain, sorrow and broken democracy. It reminds us that we must defend democracy every day.”
Reactions on the square were mixed. Protesters threw flowers and rose petals on the tank, teenagers took selfies with it and Ukrainian student Vlodomyr Kutsyi (21) stared motionless at it. “I think it’s good that the tank is here.”
He is from Kyiv, but has been studying in Amsterdam since 2019. “I’ve seen photos and videos, but a real tank from the battlefield gives a much more real feeling.” He hopes the tank will keep people aware that the war is still going on and that Ukraine still needs support.
Students Arwa Bikem (15) and Omaima Tanouti (16) thought it was good that there was attention for the war, but did not understand why the tank is Russian. “With a Ukrainian tank you show that they have fought for their freedom. I don’t understand why we’re putting down an oppressor’s weapon,” Bikem said. “I find it controversial to put this on the square like this. Doesn’t that hurt Ukrainians?” Tanouti said.
“The Russians have invaded a country and are committing genocide against a people,” said Bar Director Yoeri Albrecht. “Our democracy can also be destroyed. We cannot close our eyes to that.”
The tank will be on Leidseplein until June 4, as part of the Forum on European Culture, a program by De Balie that this year focuses on democracy in Europe.