Battered tank travels through the Netherlands as a symbol of Russian aggression

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  • Wessel de Young

    news reporter

Chains rattled loudly on the badly damaged Russian tank, as a large crane lifted it into place on the square in front of the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek. The American Sherman tank that normally stands there had to move aside for a while.

The heavily damaged Russian T-72B tank arrived yesterday afternoon. He has had a long journey: via Warsaw, Prague, Berlin and now through the Netherlands. To keep the awareness of the war alive among the population.

It’s an eerie sight, the battered, rusted tank, the barrel, the big gaping hole at the bottom of the steel bottom. Moments before, he had been wrapped in bright orange tarpaulin, like a sinister gift, and driven in on a large truck.

The T-72 tank in Groesbeek

Gerard Boink, ex-military and after his retirement five years observer at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in eastern Ukraine looks satisfied. He is the driving force behind the arrival of the tank.

“I see it as a way to keep the attention of the war here in the Netherlands,” says Boink, who saw the Ukraine fatigue growing. “The attention to it must not wane.”

Symbol of aggression

The tank probably drove into an anti-tank mine near Boetsha at the start of the Russian invasion and exploded. Boink saw the tank in July in Kyiv, where it was displayed as a symbol of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

At first the fighting machine was in Warsaw and in Berlin. There he was completely covered with red roses, laid by Russians living in Germany. That made the Ukrainians furious, after which the tank was removed after four days to prevent further tensions.

Remains of the flowers are still on the bottom. Ukrainian bracelets are tied to parts, a blue-yellow sticker is pasted on the steel and even a melted candle still adorns a small opening in the tank.

The tank in Berlin, decorated with red roses

Wiel Lenders, director of the Freedom Museum, feels just as involved. “After World War II, we restored democracy, the rule of law and freedom. Eighty years later, these are being so badly violated again in Europe. We want to issue a warning that Putin’s dictatorship is a threat to Europe.”

Ukrainian Viktoria Mutsei, arms folded, watches along with her husband Dimitro. She thinks it’s important that the tank is here now. She sighs deeply. “The reality of the war and the awareness of it by showing this tank gives us hope that we can win the war. It is terrible to think that many war crimes are committed with these machines.”

She herself was in Boetsha with her family, who had to run for these tanks. One of them shot a big hole in their house. “I would like to completely destroy that tank.” Her husband Dimitro looking at the equipment with a look of horror: “I think it’s disgusting. It killed people.”

Russia is not going to win

Mayor Mark Slinkman of Berg en Dal and deputy ambassador Anatoli Solovej of Ukraine are also there. Slinkman is impressed. He takes care of about three hundred Ukrainians in his municipality. He is proud that this tank is in Groesbeek. “It is a symbol of hope for their homeland. This Russian tank makes it clear that Russia is not going to win the war.”

Solovej thinks it’s a great initiative to let the battered Russian tank travel through the Netherlands. “It is important to spread the message of condemnation of Russian aggression against my country in Europe. Every day Ukrainians fight, they face this calamity every day.”

A little later he addresses those present and says that he is pleased with the support of the Netherlands for his country. “Keep that up,” he says. “Give us what we need, we won’t let you down. We’re going to win. Long live Ukraine!”

The Russian tank will remain in Groesbeek for the next two months, after which it will go to Groenlo and Amsterdam.

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