Protest outside new Russian-owned supermarket in Opwijk
On Friday evening around a dozen protesters gathered outside a branch of the Russian-owned supermarket chain Mere that opened in the Flemish Brabant village of Opwijk earlier this week. The store in Opwijk is Mere’s first in Flanders. Among the protesters were both Flemings and Ukrainian refugees.
They questioned how it can be that given the current situation in Ukraine a store with links to Russia is allowed to open here in Belgium. Several Russians that were present at the store verbally abused the protesters, but apart from that the protest passed without incident.
The police were on hand to ensure that everything passed peacefully. The initiative for the protest came from Ronny Cuyt from Mol (Antwerp Province).
He told VRT News that “We want to make it clear to passers-by that a Russian shop should be allowed here while Russia is causing so much misery in Ukraine. That money is flowing from Flanders to Russia in this way greatly disturbs me”.
One of the Ukrainian refugees among the protesters was 32-year-old Keniia Hlava. She told VRT News that “I am now living here in Flanders with my mother while part of my family is still in Kyiv. We are waiting for the war to end so that we can return. It’s very strange that a Russian chain can open a shop here in Flanders. It is even more strange that Flemings are buying things there. They should be angry with Russia because of the rise in the price of oil and food”.
Alexander Thierens from nearby Merchtem was also at Friday evening’s protest. He told VRT News that "What Putin is doing is beyond belief. He is committing war crimes and innocent people are being killed. Letting a supermarket like this open sends out a very bad sign. People need to know that every euro that you directly or indirectly invest in the Russian economy will sooner or later serve to finance the war. We want the war to stop and that Putin keeps his hands off Ukraine”.