The Netherlands, Australia say Russia is liable for shooting down MH17

The Netherlands and Australia are both holding Russia liable for its role in the shooting down of flight MH17 in July 2014, Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said in a statement on Friday. The decision to hold Russia responsible follows on from Thursday’s report by investigators looking into the crash, who said the Buk missile which brought down the plane was fired by a weapons system in the hands of a Russian brigade. ‘The downing of flight MH17 caused unimaginable suffering,’ Blok said. ‘On the basis of the JIT’s conclusions, the Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation that was used to down MH17. The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable.’ The two countries have now asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution and do justice to the suffering and damage caused by disaster, the statement said. A possible next step is to present the case to an international court or organisation for their judgment. Holding Russia accountable for its part in the downing of flight MH17 is separate from the criminal investigation and any prosecution and trial of the perpetrators of the downing of flight MH17. ‘We call on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of flight MH17 and their next of kin,’ Blok said. The EU and Nato have also urged Russia to accept responsibility for the incident. Russia Russia, on Thursday, issued a statement denying all responsibility for the air disaster, in which nearly 300 people died. ‘Not one Russian missile has crossed the border between Russia and Ukraine,’ Dutch media quoted the Russian ministry of defence as saying. Piet Ploeg of the relatives foundation Vliegramp MH17 told broadcaster NOS he now expects the Dutch government to take action, for example, by taking Russia to court for complicity in the downing of the plane. ‘Until now, everyone has been cautious, but now it is being openly said that Russia kept the information presented today to itself, Ploeg said.  More >

Bellingcat claims new lead in MH17 probe

Online investigation group Bellingcat said on Friday it had identified a second Russian military official who had a major role in the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. The collective says its research points the finger at Oleg Ivannikov, who operated under the code name Orion. Ivannikov was in charge of the armed forces in the ‘people’s republic of Lugansk’, a rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine, Bellingcat said. Telephone taps and other evidence have led Bellingcat to conclude that he was directly involved in moving the Buk missile system to and from Ukraine. Bellingcat earlier identified the source of the missile system as the 53ste anti-aircraft missile brigade, which the Dutch investigation team confirmed on Thursday. Last December, Bellingcat said it had identified a man heard speaking on a number of intercepted phone calls as Russian general Nikolai Fedorovich Tkachev following voice analysis. The identity of the owner of the voice, known as Delfin, is considered key to the investigation and in 2016 the investigation team appealed for help in identifying him and Orion, whom Bellingcat now claims to have found  More >

Sun worshippers warned to be careful

People planning to take advantage of this weekend’s sunshine are being warned to make sure they protect their skin, because the sun is expected to be particularly strong for the time of year Weather bureau Weeronline says UV levels could reach up to seven in the south, meaning unprotected skin can burn in as little as 10 minutes. Around 5.5 is normal for the time of year. This weekend the temperature is expected to climb into the high 20s and it will be mainly dry with some cloud. Next week it will remain warm but localised thunderstorms will be likely, particularly from Tuesday onwards. Event organisers have been making plans to deal with the heat. The organisers of the Leiden Marathon have urged participants not to aim for a fast time. ‘And if you are not in good condition, opt for a shorter distance or don’t take part at all,’ broadcaster NOS quoted the organisers as saying. The teams behind the Dauwpop and Emporium festivals have arranged for airco system in the tents and will supply free water and sun tan lotion to partygoers, NOS said. Earlier this week, Weeronline said that after the bitter cold of March and the washout of April, May is on course to break records as the warmest in history.  More >

Chips! 'Tourist' fish shop told to shut

  A fish shop in central Amsterdam has been told it must shut by the start of June for being too tourist-oriented, reports the Parool on Friday. The Seafood Bar on the busy Leidestraat has apparently breached rules banning new tourist shops in the city centre, which were announced to deal with local concerns about nuisance and crowding. But the business has launched a Facebook appeal – in English – protesting that it is really ‘trying to add something unique and different’ as ‘an authentic seafood shop with more than 70 different high-quality fish products.’ The appeal from the owners, Family de Visscher, has had more than 2,300 shares and 3,000 comments on Facebook, with people who do not want it to close entering their home post codes. One commentator, Sander van der Loos, added that the shop was ‘at last a different type of shop from the sausage factory of the centre’, slamming the ban as ‘incomprehensible bureaucracy and first class incompetence’. Cod Fons de Visscher, the shop owner, told the Parool that he thought the decision was quite simply cod: ‘If this is a tourist shop, then I have spent my whole life in the tourist trade instead of in fish,’ he reportedly said. An Amsterdam inspector’s report, however, said the shop had flouted various rules including – according to the Parool – using a plank as a table where people eat food, as in a restaurant. It apparently noted that the shop sells fried fish and has panini sandwiches in its window. The city authorities sent the business a two-week warning to close unless it stops preparing food for immediate consumption and removes cooking apparatus – although the owner claims he has signed a rental contract for 10 years. Last week the new coalition government announced a raft of stringent measures to stop the ‘Disneyfication’ of the city, including banning Airbnb-type rental in certain areas.  More >

More babies with birth defects in Limburg

The number of babies born in Limburg with a birth defect is far higher than in the rest of the country, according to researchers at Maastricht University. The researchers studied national figures on birth defects and concluded that the rate is 'alarmingly' high in the province, epidemiologist Luc Smits, told website Of the 8,000 babies born in the southern province every year, around 300 have some sort of defect - or 3.84% of live births. However, the average rate of birth defects in the Netherlands as a whole is 2.84%, the research showed. In particular heart, kidney and bladder issues and problems with sex organs are more common in Limburg, Smits said. 'We already knew that we have a lot of premature births and we still lead the way in terms of babies who are too small at birth,' Smit said. Explanation Nevertheless, there is no ready explanation for the difference. 'We found a clear rise in Parkstad and northern Limburg,' he said. 'We know that in Parkstad, children are more likely to grow up in poverty, where smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse are more common, also among expectant mothers. But the difference in the north of the province is a real mystery.' 'Something has to be to blame,' Smits told the Limburger. 'Environmental factors perhaps? We really need to research this.'  More >

A good brew: homelessness firm wins prize

A start-up company that wants to solve homelessness by training people to work as baristas won a $350,000 award in Amsterdam on Thursday night. Change Please, a London-based firm which pledges to train, help house and pay homeless people a ‘living wage’, won the Chivas Venture 2018 prize. The pitching process and ceremony was held at The Next Web Conference for start-ups, in Amsterdam's Westerpark, and judges included the Black Eyed Peas pop star and actor Cemal Ezel, who founded Change Please after being inspired by a tea shop run by a deaf woman in Vietnam, said has now offered to help with business connections in Los Angeles. ‘The margins on a cup of coffee are huge,’ he told ‘Homelessness is getting worse, and we are using that additional margin for good.’ His company, which has 22 outlets in the UK, sells its own fair-trade roasted coffee beans in 375 British stores, and serves businesses such as PWC, is aiming to launch in the United States this year and franchise its idea across the UK and America. He claims that 82% of the people he has helped still work for his business, or have a job, a year later. The awards also gave prizes of $200,000 to Mestic, a Dutch company that aims to make fibre from manure waste, and $100,000 to the Spanish BraiBook, an invention to translate text into braille and audio instantly. BraiBook also won the audience-voted award of $50,000. Waterless toilet Other finalists, also awarded $50,000, were change: WATER Labs, which has developed a waterless toilet for refugee camps and cities without sewage infrastructure, and The Picha Project, which provides employment for refugees in Malaysia by linking home cooks with caterers, companies and students who want to buy a meal. ‘Profit and positive social impact can co-exist,’ said, in a speech at the event. ‘Solving the challenges is good business. Uber helped solve racial profiling problems when [cabs] wouldn’t stop for a customer for fear of being robbed. The powers that be don’t want to see change happen. It is happening, but it all starts with solving a problem in society and being fearless.’ The Chivas Venture has given $3million to startups – taking no equity – since starting the annual competition in 2014, and Pernod Ricard chairman and chief executive Alexandre Ricard added: ‘It brings together entrepreneurs and innovators who are having a real impact on the world and changing the way we do business.’  More >

Dutch MPs query Rwanda sponsorship deal

Dutch MPs have asked aid minister Sigrid Kaag to look into the recent sponsorship deal signed between African country Rwanda and London football club Arsenal, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. In particular, MPs want to know why a country which receives so much aid from the Netherlands is able to invest €30m in sponsoring the club's shirts. VVD MPs want the minister to raise the issue with Rwanda itself. GroenLinks MP Isabelle Diks said it is disheartening to see such payments being made, while the international community is trying to tackle the poverty. The deal, signed on Wednesday, means Arsenal players will sport 'Visit Rwanda' on the sleeves of their shirts for the next three years. The aim is to promote tourism to the east African country, particularly to the national parks. Rwanda is one of 15 countries where the Netherlands focuses its aid efforts.  More >

Erwin Olaf donates 'core collection'

Photographer Erwin Olaf has donated 500 of his works to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the museum announced on Friday. The works, 412 photographs, seven videos plus magazines and books, are what the museum and Olaf describe as a ‘core collection’, containing the highlights of a forty year career. The Rijksmuseum also bought €200,000 worth of photographs and videos and has pledged to buy new work to add to the collection every two years. Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbets described Olaf as ‘one of the most important photographers' of the final quarter of the 20th century, not only because he promoted gay emancipation but because his work is deeply rooted in the visual traditions of Dutch art and history. Olaf himself said he was ‘captivated’ by the museum and its collection from a young age. The artist, who is ill with emphysema, is happy his work has found a good home. ‘It’s in good hands and I’m not going to be a nuisance about how many times my work should be put on show. I would be sorry if after I die no one will bother to see if I could be one of the greats,’ he told the Volkskrant. Loneliness Dibbets compared aspects of the later Olaf, who shot to fame in the 1980s with controversial portraits of naked women in SM gear and self-portraits with a sperm smeared face, to works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. ‘His work has the loneliness of the mourning Jeremiah by Rembrandt and the clear lines and total control of the paintings of Vermeer. If you look at the care he lavishes on his prints you could say that as a neurotic perfectionist he fits perfectly in that other Dutch tradition: that of workmanship,’ he told the paper. Recent work by Olaf includes a series of portraits of the Dutch royal family who he has photographed three times in the last decade. In the summer of 2019 the Rijksmuseum will present a selection of iconic works by Olaf for which he drew inspiration from paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Breitner.  More >

Dutch staffing agency looks to Asia

Dutch staffing agency Otto Work Force is planning to start supplying 'cheap' Asian migrant labour to Europe, starting with Poland, the company's founder Frank van Gool told the Financieele Dagblad. The company, in which Japanese company Outsourcing recently took a 56% stake, turned over €350m last year, supplying mainly Polish, Slovakian and Bulgarian workers to other countries in Europe. Now the company plans to bring in Asian workers to fill the gaps in the Polish workforce this year. Van Gool says he expects to be bringing Vietnamese and Filipino workers to the Netherlands and other west European countries within seven years. 'The Netherlands is not yet ready but will not be able to avoid using Asian workers in the longer term,' he said. 'The shortage of workers will be too big.' 'If the economy continues to grow, we will need millions of extra workers in Europe,' Van Gool said. 'We want to be ready.' Van Gool plans to start with Poland because, he says, eastern European countries are more flexible at giving permits. The Netherlands, he says, is much more difficult. 'The Poles who are here are not accepted,' he told the FD. 'Everyone thinks we are so friendly and multicultural, but partly due to Geert Wilders, that is no longer the case.'  More >

Electric car sales soar in the Netherlands

There are now some 22,000 electric cars on the Dutch roads, a 60% increase on a year ago, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. By contrast, the number of hybrids rose just 1.6% to 97,000, the CBS said. In total, this means about 1.4% of cars in the Netherlands are entirely or partially powered by electricity, the CBS said. Changes to the taxes on hybrid cars is behind the collapse of hybrid sales, the CBS said.   More >

Fewer freelancers are insured for illness

Fewer freelancers and the self-employed have insurance against illness or private pensions, national statistics agency CBS said on Friday. In 2016, 19% of the 895,000 self-employed in the Netherlands had disability insurance, compared with 23% in 2011.And in terms of pensions, 10% of the self-employed had put cash into annuities in 2016, compared with 13.3% in 2011. People working in the construction sector are most likely to have supplementary insurance - almost one in three pay into work-related disability schemes, the CBS figures show. Earlier this week, the European Commission said the Netherlands needs to reduce the incentives given to both employers and employees to work via temporary and self-employment contracts. The commission warned that the self-employed are more often under- insured against disability, unemployment and old age. ‘This could affect the sustainability of the social security system in the long run,’ the commission said.  More >