The Netherlands has angrily demanded answers from Russia after a Dutch diplomat was beaten up in Moscow, the latest in a series of incidents testing relations between the two countries.
Prime minister Mark Rutte’s government summoned Russia’s ambassador in The Hague to explain Tuesday’s assault, in which the second-in-charge of the Dutch embassy in Moscow was attacked at home by intruders posing as electricians.
Last week, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans had to apologise after a Russian diplomat was detained in The Hague.
Russia claimed he was assaulted during the detention.
Both attacks coincide with tension over Russia’s jailing of 30 Greenpeace activists, including two Dutch citizens, seized with their ship the Arctic Sunrise after activists tried to scale a Gazprom oil rig in the Pechora Sea.
Attackers broke into the Dutch diplomat’s flat late on Tuesday, forced him to the ground, hit him and drew a heart containing the letters LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) on a mirror in pink lipstick, Dutch media said.
The diplomat, named by the media as Onno Elderenbosch, was slightly hurt, Mr Timmermans said in a Facebook post.
Mr Rutte yesterday told journalists the incident was “very serious,” and said he wanted to know all the facts before making further comments. Russia’s foreign ministry expressed regret and said it would track down the culprits.
Mr Timmermans, a Russian speaker posted to Moscow in the 1990s, said he would phone his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss the incident.
The Netherlands and Russia are celebrating four centuries of diplomatic ties this year with a series of high-level political visits, cultural exchanges and trade missions.
Dutch politicians urged King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to cancel a visit to Russia planned for next month.
MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma labelled 2013 a “disaster year” for Russian-Dutch relations.
A week ago, Mr Timmermans apologised to Moscow for the detention of a Russian diplomat in The Hague, saying the envoy’s right to diplomatic immunity had been violated.
Moscow said attackers had entered the diplomat’s home, beat him with a police baton and illegally detained him for several hours over the previous weekend.
Earlier this month, the Netherlands launched legal proceedings against Russia, saying it had unlawfully detained activists on board the Dutch-registered Greenpeace ship protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.
The Netherlands, the first country to legalise same-sex marriages, has also been at odds with Moscow over gay rights.
When Russian president Vladimir Putin visited Amsterdam in April, he was met by gay rights activists waving pink and orange balloons to protest against Russia’s treatment of homosexuals.
At the same time the countries have been ramping up bilateral trade in energy, construction and retail goods. Dutch executives, including the head of global healthcare and consumer appliances group Philips, joined Mr Rutte on a mission to Russia to drum up more business.
The Netherlands and Russia have more than €23 billion in annual bilateral trade, with the Netherlands serving as a key hub for Russian oil and gas exports.
Thirty per cent of crude oil and 45 per cent of oil products entering Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, originate from Russia, making it by far the most important supplier.