Russian President Vladimir Putin will not end his country's invasion of Ukraine, as he is a "psychopath" and a "madman," according to the mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever.
During a relief campaign for the victims of the war organised in the centre of Antwerp on Thursday, De Wever said that he was worried about the evolution of the war, and called on Flemish people and Belgians to help fleeing Ukrainians as much as they could.
"I think Putin is a psychopath. Today, he said: 'I will squash the Russians who are against me like mosquitoes'," De Wever said during a radio interview, referring to a speech in which Putin lashed out against opponents in his own country.
"When did I hear that before? I think here, 70 years ago," added De Wever, alluding to statements Hilter made during the Second World War. "[Putin] is a madman, he is not going to stop."
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This is not the first time that De Wever compared the Russian president to Hitler. "Germany was humiliated after World War I, Russia after the Cold War. In both countries, an autocratic leader stepped forward with a clear ambition: to undo the humiliation. In Germany it was Hitler, in Russia Putin," he said in an interview with De Zondag last weekend.
De Wever fears that the war in Ukraine – and its consequences – will be felt for a long time to come, and Belgium should be prepared to show solidarity for a long time. "I hope people will keep that up," he said. "This is not something of a few weeks, we are going to have to continue with this for years and we are going to have to do our very best."
Flanders has already started. Throughout the entire day on Thursday, Flemish radio and television channels are putting their shoulders to the wheel for the 'Ukraine 12-12' relief campaign. A joint television show on VTM, Play4 and Een channels is being broadcast today, and all Flemish radio stations are also broadcasting for 15 hours from the Groenplaats in Antwerp to raise money.
"The focus is first on emergency aid: food, but absolutely also the protection of refugees," said the organisation, Consortium 12-12. Currently, some €3.3 million in support is already in the account of Consortium 12-12, the umbrella organisation that unites seven aid organisations, but much more is needed.
"This is an atypical crisis," Philippe Henon of the Consortium told Het Laatste Nieuws. "This is not an earthquake where we can start rebuilding after a few days or weeks. This is a war, the coffee grounds of which are to watch how it will evolve. The focus is now on emergency aid. In Ukraine and in the five neighbouring countries where refugees are most likely to arrive."
In the first phase, the money that is collected will mainly go to basic needs for refugees: clean water, clothing, food, health care and shelter material. But refugees also need trauma and psychosocial treatment. "UNICEF calculated that for all needs, it currently needs $349 million for the urgent first three months alone," said Henon.
Anyone who wants to donate money for the cause can do so via the special account number BE19 0000 0000 1212 or via the link https://donate.1212.be/ukraine-12-12/.