MOSCOW -- Relations between Russia and the Netherlands have taken an odd turn recently. Last month, Russia seized a Greenpeace ship sailing under the Dutch flag. Just more than a week ago, a high-level Russian diplomat in The Hague complained that police had beaten him. Then, Tuesday night, a Dutch diplomat of the same rank in Moscow said two men jumped him as he entered his apartment and roughed him up, leaving him bound with tape.
A Russian news website showed a photo of a mirror in the apartment on which the men had reportedly drawn a heart with lipstick around the Russian-language equivalent of the letters LGBT. Police said nothing was taken from the apartment.
Foreign diplomats in the Russian capital are closely watched by government agents. A physical assault is considerably more serious. Russia is treating the incident as an attack by criminals. But it came amid escalating disputes between the two nations and Russian fury over the treatment of its diplomat in the Netherlands.
On the night of Oct. 5, Moscow's No. 2 diplomat in The Hague, Dmitry Borodin, was taken into custody by Dutch police. Accounts differ, but police apparently forced their way into his apartment after his wife was involved in a minor traffic accident and neighbors complained that the couple had been abusing their children. The diplomat, who police said had been drinking, was detained, then released.
Russia claims that Dutch police beat Mr. Borodin when they took him into custody and has denounced the way he was treated. The Netherlands has apologized for the incident.
Now, a diplomat identified by Russian authorities as Mr. Borodin's counterpart, Onno Elderenbosch, the Dutch chief of mission in Moscow, has been attacked by men who he said were posing as electricians working on a circuit-breaker box outside his apartment. He was not seriously hurt and called police to report the incident.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called the assault "deplorable."
This year was designated as a year to celebrate Dutch-Russian friendship. But activists in the Netherlands denounced a new Russian law curtailing homosexual "propaganda," and last month, Russia seized the Netherlands-flagged Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and arrested its crew after it staged a protest at an Arctic oil rig. The ship is in Russian hands, and the crew members face charges of piracy, which carry a 15-year sentence.
First Published October 16, 2013 8:17 PM