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article imageDutch MP Wilders under fire after Russia visit

By AFP     Feb 28, 2018 in World

Relatives of victims of the MH17 air disaster demanded an apology Wednesday from far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders following a visit to the Russian parliament where he expressed "friendship" with Moscow.

Wilders, known for his fiery anti-migrant, Islamophobic rhetoric, visited the Russian capital Tuesday, including the Duma where he was seen sporting a Dutch-Russian friendship pin on his lapel.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014 over war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people, most of them Dutch nationals.

An international investigation concluded the plane was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile transported across the border into Ukraine and fired from territory held by separatists pro-Russia rebels.

Russia and the separatist authorities it supports, however, continue to deny any involvement and have repeatedly blamed Kiev for the disaster.

"An MP emphasising friendship with Russia is inappropriate," the foundation supporting MH17 victims' relatives said in a tweet.

It said a multinational joint investigative team set up to probe the disaster "should be left to do its work unhindered."

"An apology to relatives would be appropriate," the foundation said.

Wilders, who last year said he wanted to fight against "hysterical Russophobia that reigns here" in the Netherlands, also tweeted a picture of a Dutch-Russian friendship pin, saying: "Wearing this with pride".

He also said he "naturally expected full cooperation by the Russians in the wake of the MH17 disaster", saying it as one of the reasons why he was in the country.

"This can be done much better in open dialogue than with animosity," Wilders told the NOS public broadcaster.

But relatives were furious.

"It's an insult to many, many of the relatives," said Thomas Schansman in a letter to Wilders published by NOS.

"I disapprove of your action and expect you to apologise to all survivors. On Twitter. In public," he added.

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