AMSTERDAM/MOSCOW: The Netherlands was seeking answers yesterday after a Dutch diplomat was beaten in Moscow, the latest in a series of incidents testing relations between the two countries.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government summoned Russia’s ambassador in The Hague to explain Tuesday’s assault, in which the second-in-charge of the Dutch embassy in Moscow was attacked at his home by unknown intruders posing as electricians.
Last week, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans had to apologise after a Russian diplomat was detained in the Hague. Russia had complained that he was assaulted during the detention. Both attacks coincide with tension over Russia’s jailing of Greenpeace activists, including two Dutch citizens.
Attackers broke into the apartment of the Dutch diplomat on Tuesday, forced him to the ground and hit him, Dutch media reported. The diplomat, named by Dutch media as Onno Elderenbosch, was slightly hurt, Timmermans said in a post in Facebook.
Dutch officials were not releasing the name of the diplomat or details of the attack due to privacy regulations. He is listed on the Embassy’s web site, however.
Rutte said the incident was “very serious,” and said he wanted to know all the facts of the incident before making further comments. Russia’s foreign ministry expressed regret over the attack and said it would track down the culprits.
The United States condemned the incident. “We condemn the attack on the minister-counsellor of the Netherlands in Moscow. Such actions are unacceptable.,” US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul said on Twitter.
The Netherlands and Russia are celebrating four centuries of diplomatic ties this year with a series of high-level political visits, cultural exchanges and trade missions.
Dutch politicians urged King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to cancel a visit to Russia planned for next month. Lawmaker Sjoerd Sjoerdsma labelled 2013 a “disaster year” for Russian-Dutch relations. A week ago, Timmermans apologised to Moscow for the detention of a Russian diplomat in The Hague, saying the envoy’s right to diplomatic immunity had been violated.
Moscow said attackers had entered the diplomat’s home, beat him with a police baton and illegally detained him for several hours over the previous weekend.
Earlier this month, the Netherlands launched legal proceedings against Russia, saying it had unlawfully detained activists on board a Dutch-registered Greenpeace ship who were protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Russia arrested 30 activists, including two Dutch citizens, and charged them with piracy, which carries a jail sentence of 15 years.