Home Brussels Who is the EU Quarter’s pro-Putin cyclist?

Who is the EU Quarter’s pro-Putin cyclist?

by editor

BRUSSELS — He’s the European Quarter’s provocateur-in-chief.

René Demol, a 76-year-old Belgian, has been cycling up and down the streets of Brussels’ EU district for months wearing the colors of the Russian flag and spouting Kremlin propaganda to anyone within earshot.

Demol has been establishing himself as the wackiest and most aggravating figure on the streets of Brussels; a bastion of pro-Kyiv support as yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flags adorn buildings that host politicians and civil servants busily working to make sure Ukraine wins the war.

Sticking out like a sore thumb when POLITICO flagged him down last Friday, Demol was dressed in a blue, red and white hat and sweatshirt with the word “RUSSIA” emblazoned across his chest. Asked where he got his clothing, he explained that his wife had made the sweatshirt for him.

His stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine is straight out of the Kremlin conspiracy playbook: He dismissed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as “the little boy of the Americans”; claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a war criminal but merely “like all presidents” and called the murders of civilians in Bucha “pure American cinema”; described Ukraine as a mere “province” of Russia, not a sovereign nation; and said that sanctions against Russia are “pointless.”

“What’s Europe? I’ll tell you,” Demol said. “Europe is an American and Nazi financial organization,” he told POLITICO when approached near the Arts-Loi metro station.

“We must get the Americans out of Europe to make a great Europe — with Ukraine and Russia.”

His peculiar polemics angered members of the public who were passing by a farmers’ protest.

“If Ukraine’s not a country, you’re not a man,” a woman told him as a small crowd of passersby gathered on to observe Demol’s ranting.

“You are supporting terrorists, fucking killers,” a man said angrily.

“Very idiotic,” another man chimed in.

“You are murderers, you are terrorists, and you are now supporting a country of terrorists that kills women and children,” another woman said.

No less than five members of the public angrily approached Demol to remonstrate with him over the course of 15 minutes.

On the handlebars of his bicycle dangled a gift bag from the Russian embassy containing Russian cake and a small bottle of vodka. Demol said Russian diplomats had spotted him cycling past their embassy and insisted he accept the goodie bag. “I didn’t want it. Presents don’t interest me,” he said. The swag was there nonetheless — complementing his look.

It is not entirely clear how a Brussels-born man with no knowledge of the Russian language, and who has never visited Russia, became so convinced of the Kremlin’s worldview. Asked where he gets his news, he said, “Euronews,” but then went on to describe the French-based television network as anti-Russian.

He added that he has no presence on social media.

Demol has a history of political stunts in the saddle: Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws wrote about him cycling around with a mannequin of New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) politician Bart de Wever. The article describes how the French-speaking resident of Anderlecht, a district of the Brussels administrative region that borders Flanders, became a huge fan of the Flemish separatist party. But now, Demol said, he won’t vote for anyone.

Demol ended up in a shouting match with a Ukrainian woman who said she’s been living in Brussels for six years. “Go to Ukraine and fight there,” he told her.

“You can go to Russia, too,” she retorted.

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