As of Thursday, May 25, a Russian tank that was destroyed by Ukrainian soldiers during the Battle of Kyiv last year is now on display at Leidseplein in Amsterdam. While organisers hope it will encourage conversations about the fragility of democracy, reactions so far have been mixed. 

De Balie: Tank symbolises fragility and resilience of democracy

The exhibition, which was organised by the cultural centre De Balie, was officially opened at midday on Thursday by Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, and features one tank, placed in the heart of busy Leidseplein. 

Russian tank on display at Leidseplein in Amsterdam

Used by Russian troops during the Battle of Kyiv last spring, the 44-ton T-72B tank was destroyed on March 31 in the Ukrainian village of Dmytrivka. Since then, it has been on display in Berlin and at the Freedom Museum near Nijmegen

The current exhibition is part of De Balie’s Forum on European Culture, with the tank acting as “a symbol of the fragility and resilience of democracy in Europe.” It will be on display in Amsterdam until Sunday, June 4, when it will return to the Freedom Museum.

Amsterdam’s latest exhibit sparks mixed reactions

During the opening ceremony on May 25, Halsema said the tank served as a “warning” that “peace, humanity, democratic values and freedom cannot be taken for granted,” adding that it “reminds us that we must defend democracy every day.” In spite of these words and De Balie’s intentions, so far the appearance of the tank in Amsterdam’s city centre has been met with mixed reactions. 

As Halsema started her speech, protestors shouted “this tank should not be here” and “get rid of it!”, while others threw flowers and rose petals on the tank. Some also asked why it was a Russian tank and not a Ukrainian one. “I find it controversial to put this on the square like this. Doesn’t that hurt Ukrainians?”, Arwa Bikem told Het Parool.

Others were more positive, with one passer-by telling AT5 that the tank was impressive: “If you want to convey a message, you can do it this way.” Talking to Het Parool, Ukrainian student Vlodomyr Kutsyi also said it was “good that the tank is here”, and hoped it would raise awareness about the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

Images via Amanda Weideman.

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