The KLM plane from Amsterdam to Cardiff twice crosses the route taken every several days by Russian fighter planes with their transponders off to test the NATO systems and to tease the West.
For a while we are on the very same route and height over the English Channel. It’s the night flight, 9.10 p.m. from Amsterdam, in Cardiff after less than an hour. The snacks in economy class have been distributed. The Fokker 70 we are in once again crosses the trail frequented by the Russian military planes invisible for our pilot.
For this flight almost all of 80 available seats are occupied. On my left a Welsh family is returning home from a trip to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. They hardly managed to cram van Gogh posters and a huge illustrated album of impressionist paintings in the overhead locker. The Old Continent still means works of art, cuisine, the art of living one’s life to the full.
On my right a teenager solving her sudoku. She’s good at it, or so it seems.
They say you don’t feel anything at this level of pain and speed. So high up in the sky the reactions of the human body are delayed, impulses need more time to get to the brain. It all happens within a millisecond. Just a flash of light. Your consciousness doesn’t have time to take in the pain. Just a blink of an eye.
* * *
Shock and disbelief.
And statements issued very quickly by the governments of the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Germany, Romania, Norway, China, Poland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Moldavia and Canada. 69 passengers and 5 crew members from so many countries are lost.
”So many countries” is repeated by various TV channels of all continents.
The president of the USA issues a statement, too. This time there were no American citizens on board, nevertheless such an outrageous act of terror in the air must be met with a firm condemnation from the international community.
The Dutch government appeals for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
The president of the European Commission meets his counterpart of the European Parliament. It effects in a resolute statement condemning the increased Ukraine-Russia conflict destabilizing Europe. It demands that both sides immediately cease military actions. According to the recent practice Ukraine and Russia are called ”opposing sides”.
The American senate’s leader of opposition calls for sanctions on Russia.
Russia Today makes breaking news to broadcast a press conference of Tatiana Anodina, the chief of the most important Russian supervising body of air transportation and accidents. She promises a careful investigation and demands from the Dutch aviation all documents regarding the KLM pilot, including his health certificates. She also urges them to comment on his alleged drug problems.
The market shares of KLM plunge. The head of the alliance – which includes KLM, Air France, Aeroflot and Air Serbia – calls a meeting of its steering commitee.
Russia Today change their programme. Reports from Amsterdam – Europe’s drug paradise – are intertwined with pictures from a grieving town near Moscow. The pilot of the crashed Russian fighter plane which ”has literally been smashed by the KLM” orphaned two kids: a four-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl Yekaterina. She plays chess and the piano, but in the future she would like to deal with physics. Her story is deeply moving for all those watching Russia Today and other TV channels that follow, also from France, Germany, Britain. A fundrasing campaign for the sweet little girl is going on all over Europe, in Paris, London, Stockholm, Budapest and Warsaw.
Silent marches in Paris, Nicea, London, Stockholm, Warsaw, Prague, Bratislava, Madrid, Washington, even in Melbourne down under. Candles burnt at the gates of the Russian embassies.
#NoForPutin action on Instagram and Twitter.
An urgent plenary session of the European Parliament is held. The grim event mobilizes the delegates to pass a resolution, after four days of animated discussions where each of them can take part and some use the right more than once, intensifying their official parliementary activities. The resolution comes as an effect of a consensus. It condemns aggression in the sky, but avoids pointing at what it really is about or identifying the ones to blame. In its final draft the term ”aggressor” is replaced with ”a big European country”.
Simultaneously in Krakow, Strasbourg, Paris and Lisbon, thanks to the Eurovision, concerts are played to commemorate ”those who haven’t reached their destination”. The term ”fallen” is avoided, kept solely for victims of war, apparently not applicable here. The English Channel – geographically speaking – belongs to the centre of good old Europe, restless only on its outskirts.
Russia gives loans to Greece and Spain, and non-refundable ones to Moldavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. It increases its monetary engagement in saving the media in Britain, France, Ireland, Poland, Italy and Portugal. When the International Organization of Journalists makes a protest, the chief of the Russian Council for Independent Journalism claims that due to the high ethical standards of the media in Western Europe it would be unthinkable to call such help ”corruption”.
The journalists of Europe gladly accept the Russian financial support and promise that the ownership issues will in no way influence their objectivism.
The internet trolls mock Europeans, weak internal relations within NATO, corrupt elites of the West, inability of the European institutions to act without reaching the consensus on every level. ”Europe is the weakest link, even Africa is stronger, better organized. Very soon you will be no more, Europeans” – sneers one of the trolls.
Symbolic funerals of the victims are held. Full identification of all body parts scattered over a vast area of the English Channel is impossible, although it takes much time and effort.
Russia cancels its plan to organize the Eurovision contest final.
Yekaterina, the daughter of the deceased Russian military pilot is interviewed by a few TV channels. Her English is fluent, she is a very well prepared seven-year-old.
Aeroflot CEO declares that if the finacial condition of Air France and KLM with which his company is allied deteriorates, they will be ready to help, even as far as through acquisition.
During the burial ceremony in Prague the Russian ambassador is booed who has come there to lay a wreath from the Russian people. After the incident he is called back to Moscow for consultations. Czechs are afraid of the commencing renegotiations of a huge gas contract. The winter may bring chill to the Czech political scene.
The consummer rights office in Bulgaria cancels the licence for a restaurant owner who placed in the venue a ”We don’t serve Russians here” plaque and orders him to pay a huge fine. Detailed labour, health and tax inspections follow. The head of the Bulgarian foreign office sends apologies and condolences to the Russian ambassador.
Tatiana Anodina assaults KLM and appeals to the company for undertaking medical examinations of its pilots as far as ”opiates in their blood”.
* * *
I must have taken a short nap. The Welsh keep browsing through their Cezanne album, the teenager on my right still overwhelmed by her sudokus.
We are approaching the airport in Cardiff, a nice sleepy town in peaceful Europe.