The Netherlands expelled Russian diplomats and suspended visas for Russian and closing an embassy branch
The Dutch Foreign Ministry announced Saturday the closure of the commercial branch of the Russian embassy in Amsterdam, in addition to the expulsion of Russian diplomats, accusing Moscow in particular of continuing to try to send spies to the Netherlands.
The same source added that Russia also refuses to grant visas to allow Dutch diplomats to work in Moscow, explaining that the Consulate General of the Netherlands in St. Petersburg will close its doors due to lack of employees.
“Despite several attempts by the Netherlands to find a solution, Russia continues to try to plant intelligence officers in the Netherlands with diplomatic cover,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said, as quoted in a statement.
“We cannot accept this and we will not allow it,” he added.
Responding to a question on public broadcaster NOS, Hoekstra said he expected 10 Russian diplomats to be expelled.
Shortly after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine about a year ago, the Netherlands expelled 17 Russian diplomats suspected of engaging in espionage activities.
On that day, 58 Russian diplomats remained in the country, according to Dutch media.
In response, Russia expelled 15 Dutch diplomats.
Since then, negotiations have been under way to name new diplomats from both sides, but they have failed so far, according to the Dutch government.
Accordingly, a decision was taken that the Russian embassy in The Hague cannot include diplomats whose number exceeds the number of diplomats in the Dutch embassy in Moscow.
The Russian commercial branch in Amsterdam will close from February 21, while the Consulate General of the Netherlands in St. Petersburg will close on the 20th of it, provided that the Dutch embassy in Moscow remains operational.
Relations between the two countries witnessed an additional chill after a judgment issued in absentia by a Dutch court in November against two Russians and a Ukrainian for their role in the crash of Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014.
The plane was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a Russian-made missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.
As a result, all 298 passengers on board, including 196 Dutch nationals, were killed.
At the beginning of February, international investigators announced that there were strong indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally agreed to hand over the missile that brought down the aforementioned plane.
But they suspended their investigation because Putin enjoys immunity as head of state.
Earlier this week, the Dutch ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to Dutch media.
Moscow called for an end to the attempts of the Dutch authorities to hold the Russian Federation responsible for the incident, considering that these attempts are baseless.
In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Saturday, that Moscow will respond to the Netherlands’ decision to reduce the number of members of the Russian diplomatic mission and expel a number of Russian diplomats.