Dutch diplomat attacked in Moscow
Russian and Dutch officials have recently exchanged threats and taken legal action amid a dispute over the arrest of Dutch citizens taken by the Russian Coast Guard from a Greenpeace ship flagged in the Netherlands.
The New York Times
MOSCOW — The year 2013 was officially supposed to be one of cultural exchange to highlight the friendship between Russia and the Netherlands. But lately, the most common exchanges between officials have been threats and legal actions amid an intensifying quarrel over the arrest and prosecution of Dutch citizens detained by the Russian Coast Guard aboard a Greenpeace ship flagged in the Netherlands.
On Wednesday, Dutch officials were demanding an investigation after the beating of a senior diplomat in his Moscow apartment. Two men forced their way into the apartment of Onno Elderenbosch, the Netherlands’ deputy ambassador to Russia, and attacked him late Tuesday, said Friso Wijnen, a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Elderenbosch suffered minor injuries, he said.
Russian media outlets reported that Elderenbosch’s attackers were disguised as electricians, and taped his hands together before attacking him. A news service published photographs of damaged furniture in the apartment and reported that the two attackers had scrawled a heart and the letters LGBT, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, in pink lipstick on a mirror before fleeing.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday tried to head off fallout from the attack on Elderenbosch, deploring the episode and promising to take steps to detain the two attackers, who remained unidentified as of late Wednesday.
In the Netherlands, officials also sought to tread a delicate diplomatic line, condemning the attack on their diplomat while trying not to widen the rift with the Russian government by accusing it of complicity. The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, spoke with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and received assurances that the episode was being investigated, the Dutch government said.
“There is a lot of speculation in the media, but before an investigation has come to a conclusion I don’t think there is any reason to believe that this is sinister,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, who asked not to be identified.
The attack on Elderenbosch came 11 days after a Russian diplomat, Dmitry Borodin, was arrested, and Russian officials said beaten, by the Dutch police at his home in The Hague. Accounts differ, but police apparently forced their way into his apartment after his wife was involved in a minor traffic accident and neighbors complained that the couple had been abusing their children. The diplomat, who police said had been drinking, was detained, and then released.
The Netherlands has been outspoken in its criticism of Russia’s recent adoption of a law banning the distribution of gay propaganda among minors. Several thousand protested the law in a rally in Amsterdam in August, and the mayor of Amsterdam refused to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit in April.
Wijnen said the Foreign Ministry would not speculate about any motive in the Tuesday attack, nor did it connect the incident with the arrest of Borodin.
Putin called that episode “a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention” on diplomatic relations, and the Dutch Foreign Ministry issued an apology this month.
Earlier in October, the Dutch government began an appeal to the Tribunal of the Law on the Sea to release two Dutch citizens and 28 others detained during a Greenpeace demonstration in Arctic waters reserved for Russian economic exploitation. A Russian court in Murmansk has charged the crew of the ship, the Arctic Sunrise, with piracy for a protest in which two activists tried to scale an oil platform run by the state gas giant, Gazprom.
Russia’s food-safety watchdog last week responded with a threat to ban Dutch imports, saying it was unhappy with the quality of dairy and flower bulbs from the country. Russia routinely bans imports in its diplomatic disputes with other countries.
The Netherlands relies heavily on Russian energy imports to the country and through its Rotterdam port, but it also exports hundreds of millions of euros worth of flower bulbs, mainly tulips, as well as gladioluses, narcissuses and hyacinths, each year.
King Willem-Alexander has planned a visit to Moscow on Nov. 9 to wind up the yearlong celebration of the two countries’ friendship. It is not clear whether that trip will take place.
Material from The Washington Post is included in this report.