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Russian-Dutch Spat Reignited as Embassy Employee’s Home Burgled

A diplomatic dispute between Russia and the Netherlands flared up again after a break-in at the home of a Russian Embassy employee in The Hague.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said today on its website that it expects the Dutch police to find the culprits, while the police in The Hague said yesterday’s burglary appeared to be one of a series of similar crimes in the area.

A high-ranking Dutch diplomat in Moscow was assaulted on Oct. 15 when two assailants entered his home, in what may have been a reprisal for the arrest of a Russian diplomat in The Hague 10 days earlier after neighbors complained about a domestic disturbance.

Russia and the Netherlands have been at loggerheads since the Dutch government began international legal action to force the Russian authorities to release a Greenpeace ship and activists facing prison over an Arctic protest last month. The dispute has cast a shadow over a planned Dutch royal visit to Russia next month,

“We need to keep our heads cool and resolve the issues step by step,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in The Hague today. “I’m aware that the occurrences raise questions about the relationship with Russia in a broader context.”

Two Dutch citizens are among the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists in custody in the port city of Murmansk and their boat, Arctic Sunrise, is Dutch-registered. The Dutch authorities said Oct. 4 that they had started arbitration on the basis of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, a decision Greenpeace said it “applauds.”

Dutch Apology

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans apologized last week for the Russian diplomat’s arrest, saying the envoy’s diplomatic immunity had been violated. He refused Russian requests to punish the police officers involved.

The Dutch diplomat’s beating in Moscow led to the Russian ambassador in The Hague being summoned. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it condemned the incident, while reiterating its demand yesterday for measures against the Dutch police officers.

The assault in Moscow “had something to do with the Russian government’s frustration at the way its diplomat was treated in the Netherlands,” Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said by telephone. “It’s deplorable that it got to this level of tit-for-tat.”

Timmermans was cited by the Dutch news agency ANP today as saying he assumes for now that the burglary had nothing to do with the diplomatic incidents. Even so, the break-in complicates matters, according to Timmermans, who said he’s doing everything he can to resolve the impasse.

Diplomat’s Arrest

According to a police report filed after the Russian diplomat’s arrest that was cited by de Telegraaf newspaper, he was unable to stand when officers arrived at his front door.

The diplomat’s children appeared to have been completely neglected and he was arrested on charges of child molestation, according to the Telegraaf report. The oldest child, age 4, had been repeatedly hit on the head by his father, according to the neighbors who called in the police. The father dragged the two children by their hair into the house, de Telegraaf said.

The Dutch royal couple, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, are due to visit Russia Nov. 9 as part of a year of joint cultural and economic events.

“The cabinet looks at it from a perspective that this relationship benefits from constructive ties,” Rutte said. “In that context there is, at present, no reason to adjust the Netherlands-Russia year, including the royal visit as part of it.”

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