Dutch king’s state visit to Russia expected to go ahead despite diplomatic rows
Sergei Lavrov assures Dutch counterpart that two men who attacked diplomat in Moscow will be found
Dutch King Willem-Alexander (centre) and Queen Maxima are welcomed by Swedish speaker of parliament Per Westerberg in Stockholm on Monday. Photograph: Reuters
The Dutch government says it still expects a state visit to Russia by King Willem-Alexander to go ahead next month, despite the attack on one of its diplomats in his Moscow flat on Tuesday, sparking the latest in a series of diplomatic rows between the two countries.
Ironically, the visit was to have been the culmination of “Netherlands-Russia 2013”, 12 months of special events celebrating 400 years of friendly diplomatic, cultural and business ties, which saw Russian president Vladimir Putin visit Amsterdam in April.
After a parliamentary debate yesterday, during which there were calls for the king’s return visit to be postponed, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans said he had been assured by his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, who was “shocked” by the assault, that the two assailants would be found.
Responding to some MPs’ demands for an apology from Russia, Mr Timmermans said: “It is too soon. We still don’t know who was behind this attack. We need clarity as to who was responsible. Once we have that we will know who should apologise. ”
The decision to go ahead with Willem-Alexander’s first official overseas visit since becoming king earlier this year came as 11 Nobel prizewinners wrote to Mr Putin, asking him to free the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, and its crew of 30.
It was the Netherlands’ decision last week to begin legal action at a UN tribunal for the release of the Dutch-flagged vessel and its crew which first prompted an angry reaction from Moscow, saying The Hague had failed to act to stop the ship’s “illegal” protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.
Greenpeace says that more than 1.4 million people worldwide have so far joined its campaign demanding the release of the 28 activists and two journalists, who come from 18 different countries, including two from the Netherlands.
Last night, however, a spokesman for Mr Putin responded to the Nobel laureates’ letter by saying he had “no power to influence the courts”.
The Dutch diplomat attacked on Tuesday night was Onno Elderenbosch (60), number two at the Moscow embassy, who was beaten by two men who entered his apartment posing as electricians.
One drew a heart on a mirror with the letters “LGBT”, the acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual” – taken as a reference to the Dutch government’s support for gay rights.
The attack followed a row the previous week over the arrest by Dutch police of Dmitri Borodin, a senior Russian diplomat in The Hague, because of concerns about his treatment of his two young children. The Netherlands subsequently apologised for violating his diplomatic immunity.