'Your help is a matter of life and death: let's cut ties with Russia'
Dutch politician Thierry Baudet was clear about what, in his view, are the disastrous consequences the war in Ukraine can have for us in the Netherlands. "That's really bad for us", he exclaimed, "just look at the gas prices already!" While he sent this very sensitive tweet, alarms sounded in Kyiv amidst bombings. The municipality told people to evacuate the city.
In October 2021, I was in Kyiv myself to participate in an international seminar for young women about leadership and politics. There, I met Iryna (35) and Olena (22), members of political associations linked to the same umbrella association to which my youth organisation is tied. Now, they're keeping me up to date about the situation in Ukraine through WhatsApp and other social networks.
Waking up in the middle of a war
Iryna and Olena woke up on February 24 in the middle of a war. When I spoke with Iryna, she was hiding in a bunker in Kyiv, where she was "safe" from the Russian attack. "Safe" given the context, of course: she admitted that she was scared and that she had no idea what the next 24 hours would look like.
But one thing was certain: "Fuck Putin. Authoritarian regimes are awful. He's crazy, he doesn't give a damn anymore". Olena agrees with Iryna: "Putin is a fucking dictator. Stop the war", she posted on her Instagram, where she sheds light on the situation for the rest of the world by sharing information, pictures and videos of her experiences. In most videos, she's clearly emotional.
Cut ties with Russia
While the residents of Kyiv look for a bunker, Dutch people are worried about gas prices going up as a result of the war. Olena and Iryna have a request for the Dutch government. "It's time to understand that it is possible not to have any diplomatic or economic ties with Russia. It just doesn't work. Isn't that evident now with this conflict?", says Olena. She hopes other countries will put an end to business relations with Russia, such as the ones related to oil and gas. "As long as the Russians have money, they will keep making bullets to kill us", says Iryna.
She's hurt by Baudet's quote. "You Europeans continue to do so much business with Russia, despite everything", she laments, with a trembling voice. "Yes, prices will go up without Russian gas, but that isn't as scary as being forced to leave your house to take shelter in a bunker. Or hearing that 22 civilians have already been killed. That could be your kid who's in the army, your father who was doing groceries, or your grandma who is not fast enough to flee".
Olena agrees: "The bombings are not only targeting military places. The entire country is being targeted, the infrastructure, the hospitals. This is real war". Clearly affected, she goes on: "It's the scariest thing in the world to wake up to the sound of bombs at five in the morning. This is the first time in my life that I'm in a bunker. I only think about surviving, and this is the 21st century in Europe".
Even though the rising gas prices are "really bad for us", in the words of Baudet, it doesn't look like the Dutch government is very inclined to help. Baudet is not alone, therefore, for the government is apparently too cautious to apply real sanctions. But Mr Baudet, Mr Rutte, what would you rather do, then? Wait until it's our turn? After all, as Iryna says, "Putin has so much money and territory. He's standing tall, dry and safe. It's time to break his legs".
For those working for the Dutch government, my friends Iryna and Olena have one last piece of advice: "Go to your cabinet and ask them to help stop Russia. Go to protests and make your voice heard. Your help is a matter of life and death. Help us, it doesn't matter how. Donate to the Ukrainian army or a humanitarian organisation, I beg you".