Netherlands orders Russian diplomats to leave Al Jazeera English

Netherlands orders Russian diplomats to leave

The Dutch government has accused Moscow of wanting to send spies to the Netherlands, saying “a number” of diplomats are to be expelled.

The Dutch government has said that “a number” of Russian diplomats will have to leave the Netherlands and has accused Moscow of trying to smuggle spies into the country, which is home to institutions like the International Criminal Court and the global chemical weapons watchdog.

Saturday’s announcement is the latest twist in a diplomatic row between the two countries, which began shortly after Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago sparked a war on Europe’s eastern flank.

“Despite numerous attempts by the Netherlands to find a solution, Russia continues to try to bring intelligence officers to the Netherlands under diplomatic cover,” Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a statement.

“We cannot and will not allow that.”

He added that it remains “important to keep embassies open as a channel of communication, even now that relations with Russia are more difficult than ever.”

The Russian diplomats had two weeks to leave the country. A Russian trade office in Amsterdam has been ordered to close by Tuesday.

The government said it had decided to cap the number of diplomats at the Russian embassy in The Hague to match the number of diplomats at the Dutch embassy in Moscow.

In addition to accusing Russia of sending spies to the Netherlands, the government said Moscow is refusing to issue visas to Dutch diplomats to staff the Dutch consulate in St. Petersburg and the embassy in the Russian capital.

The Dutch government announced that it would close its consulate in St. Petersburg.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Dutch government expelled 17 Russian intelligence officers. Russia responded by sacking 15 Dutch diplomats.

There was initially no comment from Moscow.