Two Dutch diplomats have been expelled from Moscow in a tit-for-tat move by Russia after two of its embassy staff in The Hague were exposed as spies.
The two Russians were declared persona non grata in December after the intelligence service AIVD said they had infiltrated companies and a higher education institution working in the high-tech sector.
Moscow described their expulsion as a provocation and said at the time that retaliatory measures would follow. The Dutch acting charge d’affaires, Joost Reijntjes, was summoned to a meeting on Monday where he was told the embassy staff were being expelled in line with the ‘principle of recipricocity’, Radio Free Europe reported.
Relations between the Netherlands and Russia have soured in recent years following the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over Ukraine in July 2014. Two-thirds of the 298 people on board the plane, which took off from Amsterdam, were Dutch.
Russia has denied responsibility but the Netherlands has put three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian on trial for shooting down the plane and murdering its passengers. An international investigation in 2016 concluded that the plane was hit by a missile fired from Ukrainian farmland in territory ‘controlled by pro-Russian fighters’.
In 2018 four Russian agents were caught trying to hack into the wi-fi network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague from an adjacent hotel car park.
The members of the GRU military intelligence service were ejected from the Netherlands immediately after the attempted security breach was detected. The OPCW was carrying out forensic tests as part of the investigation into the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, earlier that year.