Cabinet expels 17 Russian diplomats for espionage

The cabinet expels 17 Russian diplomats from the country. The General and Military Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD and MIVD) says that the employees were in reality spies. The Russian ambassador was summoned today by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inform him about the decision.

The government writes this in a press statement.

Coordination with other countries

In the message, the cabinet says that the deportation has been decided because the group posed a threat to national security. The war in Ukraine and the attitude of Russia in general also play tricks. These situational circumstances make it undesirable for intelligence officers – another name for spies – to be active in our country.

What exactly the spies are suspected of, is left open to the government. She does say, however, that the decision was made in consultation with like-minded countries. Belgium announced today that 21 Russians are suspected of espionage. In Ireland, there are four Russians, in the Czech Republic one Russian. The United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Montenegro have already decided to expel Russian intelligence officers from the country.

The Russian intelligence officers have two weeks to leave the Netherlands.

Cabinet speaks of ‘increasing Russian assertiveness’

Speaking to the media, Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra says that the Russians must leave our country “for the sake of Dutch security”. He speaks of a “greatly changed context, with the war in Ukraine and the increasing Russian assertiveness”.

Whether Russia will repay in the same way is difficult to say. The government does take that scenario into account. “Experience shows that Russia does not leave such measures unanswered. We cannot speculate about that, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is prepared for various scenarios that may arise in the near future,” said Minister Hoekstra.

‘A pretty dramatic gesture’

According to the NOS, a total of 75 Russian diplomats are accredited in the Netherlands. In other words, the cabinet expels almost a quarter of all Russian diplomats in our country. That is a significant number, Ben de Jong tells RTL Nieuws. He is a visiting researcher in the field of intelligence services at Leiden University.

“After the assassination attempt on former double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018, Russians were also deported from the Netherlands. But then there were two. Usually, it is one, two or three. Seventeen is a major incident,” said De Jong. This large number may indicate a deterioration of the ties between the Netherlands and Russia. In this way, the Netherlands may try to “put those Russians in their place”.

If the relationship between our country and Russia had been good, the expulsion would have happened in silence, according to the academic. He called the cabinet’s decision to expel 17 Russian diplomats at once “a pretty dramatic gesture”.

AIVD previously caught Russian spies

It is not the first time that the Netherlands openly expels Russian spies. At the end of 2020, exactly the same happened to two Russian diplomats who had been exposed by the AIVD. In reality, it was members of the Russian civilian intelligence service SVR who collected as much sensitive and confidential information about the Dutch high-tech sector as possible. In particular about artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and nanotechnology.

These technologies are often used for civil applications, but can also be used for military purposes. We also call this principle dual-use. It is not without reason that the government, academia, and other institutions do everything they can to protect such information as well as possible.

Update (April 6, 2022): not only the Netherlands, Belgium. The Czech Republic and Ireland expel Russian diplomats. This week, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Slovenia, among others, have announced plans to send Russian diplomats home. The number varies greatly from country to country. For example, Sweden puts three Russian diplomats on the plane and Slovenia no less than 33.

A Kremlin spokesman called the expulsion of Russian diplomats “a short-sighted move” that will complicate communication between countries. He also pointed to Russian retaliatory measures, although he did not specify what he meant by that. This may mean that Russia is showing diplomats from European countries the door.

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