298 empty seats in front of the Russian embassy. A protest by a group of MH17 relatives

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On Friday 8 June, a group of relatives of victims of the shoot down of flight MH17 held a silent
protest in front of the Russian embassy in The Hague, Netherlands.

Dutch NOS news reported


The protest consisted of temporarily placing 298 empty chairs in the park opposite the embassy. The
message of the activists to the president, government and people of Russia says:
“298 people, 80 of them forever children, have nothing to celebrate today. Their seats remain empty.
Those who sealed their fate are silent and look away. ”

In the weekend of 8-10 June, Russia celebrates ‘Russia Day’ (officially 12 June). It commemorates
Russia’s independence, from the Soviet Union in 1990. A day of pride, usually imbued with cultural and
nationalist expressions.
The protest is a call to justify this pride and celebrations. Russia has signed UN Security Council
Resolution 2166. It requires full, active cooperation in discovering the truth behind the shoot down.
However, Russia has made false statements and protects witnesses. After the recent presentation of
the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) we are certain that Russia has withheld crucial
information and thus violates UNSC 2166.

The activists argue that there is nothing to celebrate for Russia, as a nation that ignores universal values such as respecting human lives and the pursuit of truth. There is no room for pride and festivities for a nation whose clandestine actions are obscured and remain unaccounted for. The shame that Russia will have to bear in regard to MH17 is growing each day.

The JIT also showed that the key to the truth behind MH17 lies in Moscow. The key that to so many
families need to open the door to coping, closure and – who knows – even forgiveness. But the truth
is primarily known to those who were personally involved in the tragedy. Victim’s relatives therefor
call on them too to come forward. In name of humanity. The action thus adds to the criminal and
political dimensions, the human one.

This protest is initiated by the Working Group on Truth Finding for MH17. It operates independently.
Last year – in the same park opposite the embassy – the working group already installed a remembrance
bench carrying the message to Russia: ‘take responsibility and be transparent’. Recently the Australian
and Dutch governments adopted this call, receiving broad international support. The working group
message is that they will keep on waiting until Russia hears their call.

The bench is still there.


Photos by Hans de Borst.

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