Monday 27 March 2023

Russians in the Netherlands are intimidated by calls to ask about ‘loyalty’

Photo: Niels van der Pas

Russian students and at least one scientist in the Netherlands have been approached by phone to ask about their loyalty in the conflict with Ukraine, the Dutch universities organisation Universiteiten Nederland and the education ministry have confirmed.

The callers say they represent the Russian government and want to know if the person in question supports the invasion of Ukraine. The universities are not giving out more information to protect the people who reported the calls.

A spokesman for security service AIVD said the calls can be directly linked to the invasion. ‘Russians in the Netherlands have access to free media and are in contact with family and friends in Russia. The criticisms they are making are not to the liking of the Russian authorities,’ he told the Financieele Dagblad.

None of the people who were called wanted to speak to the paper except one woman who said she began receiving calls when she had put a Ukrainian flag on Facebook following the invasion.

‘He asked me if I supported Ukraine. He was friendly but in the context of the war I felt uneasy and intimidated,’ the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

The education ministry said the incidents are ‘not a good signal’. ‘People must be able to study and carry out research in safety and freedom,’ a spokesman for the ministry said.

Other cases

Students are not the only ones to experience the ‘long arm’ of the Russian authorities.

The clergy at the Amsterdam parish of the Russian Orthodox Church are moving to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, another movement within the Eastern Orthodox churches, because of threats from the Russian Orthodox archbishop in the Netherlands.

Four priests and the dean took the decision to move because they do not support the Russian church’s backing for the invasion of Ukraine. ‘This decision is extremely painful and difficult for all concerned,’ the church officials said in a statement last month.

Dutch News is also aware of a number of Russian nationals in the Netherlands who have said they are afraid to speak out about the war, or will only do so anonymously.

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