Dutch diplomat beaten up in Moscow
Russian ambassador summoned to ministry in Hague over attack
A mirror in the Moscow apartment of Dutch diplomat Onno Elderenbosch on which attackers drew a heart and the letters “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) in lipstick. The incident comes amid growing tensions between Russia and the Netherlands over the arrest of the 30 crew members of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
The United States entered the growing diplomatic row between the Netherlands and Russia last night, condemning as “unacceptable” an attack in which a senior Dutch diplomat was beaten and tied up, and his Moscow apartment ransacked.
Prime minister Mark Rutte described the attack on minister-counsellor Onno Elderenbosch, number two at the Moscow embassy, as “very serious”, while foreign minister Frans Timmermans said Dutch diplomats in the Russian capital had a right to work in safety.
Mr Timmermans, a fluent Russian speaker who was posted to Moscow in the 1990s, spoke to his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, by telephone last night, and the Russian ambassador, Roman Kolodkin, was summoned to the foreign ministry in The Hague and asked to investigate the attack.
As the details of the incident became clearer, it emerged that 60-year-old Mr Elderenbosch opened his door on Povarskaya Street, in the embassy district, late on Tuesday, when two men posing as electricians said there were problems with the power and asked to check his apartment.
The diplomat was struck from behind by one of the men and fell to the ground, knocking his head on the floor.
The second man went to a mirror and used pink lipstick to draw a heart and the letters “LGBT”, the acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual”.
“The intruders then bound him and turned the apartment upside down,” a police source told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The latest attack – which has worsened already icy relations between the Netherlands and Russia – follows an incident in which a Russian diplomat was arrested by Dutch police earlier this month after neighbours complained about his treatment of his two young children.
Minister-counsellor Dmitry Borodin, number two at the Russian embassy in The Hague, said a number of unidentified people entered his apartment, knocked him to the ground and hit him. It was only when he was taken to a police station that he realised they were police, he claimed.
Russian president Vladimir Putin demanded an apology, and, last Wednesday, Mr Timmermans apologised – accepting that Mr Borodin’s diplomatic immunity had been violated, while maintaining that the police had “acted in accordance with their professional responsibilities”.
That incident, in turn, came just days after the Netherlands instigated legal action against Russia at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for the release of Dutch-registered Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, and its crew of 30, held since a protest at an oil platform in the Pechora Sea.
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages and has also been at odds with Russia over gay rights. And when Mr Putin visited Amsterdam in April, he was met with protests by gay rights activists. King Willem-Alexander is due to pay a return visit next month.
Last night, the US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, entered the fray on behalf of Washington, tweeting: “We condemn the attack on the minister-counsellor of the Netherlands in Moscow. Such actions are unacceptable.”
The Russian foreign ministry said it “regretted” the attack, and said “all possible measures” were being taken to find those responsible.