The Dutch foreign ministry on Saturday announced the expulsion of several Russian diplomats and the closure of a Russian trade mission in Amsterdam, accusing Moscow of using diplomatic cover for espionage.
It was the latest development in the dispute over Russia’s refusal to issue visas to Dutch diplomats stationed at its Moscow embassy and St. Petersburg consulate.
Due to staff shortages, the consulate will be closed on Monday, but the embassy will remain open, the statement added.
The ministry said in a statement that the Netherlands had repeatedly tried to find a solution to the dispute.
Foreign Minister Wopke Hekstra tweeted late Saturday that “Russia’s attempt to use spies as a diplomatic cover for the Netherlands is unacceptable.”
“That’s why we limit the number of Russian diplomats in Holland.”
The Russian diplomats being told to leave have two weeks to leave the country, but the Russian trade mission in Amsterdam had to be closed from Tuesday.
Hoekstra told Dutch broadcaster NOS that he expected about a dozen Russian diplomats to leave the country.
The closure of Russian trade missions is Moscow’s “response to continued international human rights abuses,” Hoekstra said in a separate letter to Congress.
It will remain closed “until the Russian Federation stops violating its ban on attacks on civilians and structures” in Ukraine, he said.
– Death on MH17 –
Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine has led to a wave of international condemnation and sanctions, with hundreds of Russian diplomats expelled from Western countries and some accused of espionage.
Moscow responded by sending dozens of Western diplomats home.
Dutch media reports said the Netherlands expelled 17 Russian diplomats shortly after its invasion of Ukraine last February, leaving 58 behind in the country before the announcement on Saturday.
In response, Russia expelled 15 Dutch diplomats and since then negotiations to appoint new diplomats to each country have failed, the Dutch government said.
As a result, “the Russian embassy in The Hague will not be able to have more diplomats than the Dutch embassy in Moscow,” he said.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 had already heightened tensions between the two countries. There were 196 Dutch nationals on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
International investigators said this month there were “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally approved the supply of the missile that shot it down.
A Dutch court last year convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian in shooting down Flight MH17, but Russia has denied involvement in the missile launch.
Dutch media reported that the Dutch ambassador to Russia was summoned to Russia’s foreign ministry earlier this week after Moscow demanded that the Netherlands stop its “relentless” attempt to hold Russia responsible for the catastrophe. .
https://www.expatica.com/nl/general/dutch-expel-russian-diplomats-close-trade-mission-525970/ Netherlands Expels Russian Diplomat, Closes Trade Mission