MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said the expulsion of four alleged Russian agents from the Netherlands in April had been a “misunderstanding”, calling their visit a “routine trip”.
“There was nothing secret about the trip by our specialists to the Netherlands, it was a routine trip. They didn’t hide when they checked into the hotel, or when they came to the airport, or when they went to our embassy,” Lavrov said during a press conference.
“They were detained without explanation… and asked to leave. It looked like a misunderstanding,” he said, adding that there had been no diplomatic protests over the incident.
The Netherlands said Thursday it had expelled four GRU military intelligence agents in April for plotting a cyber-attack on the world’s chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague.
The men entered the country on Russian diplomatic passports on April 10 and were caught red-handed on April 13 with a car full of electronic equipment in the Marriott Hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Their passports and other details, including a taxi receipt for a trip to a Moscow airport from a street containing a branch of the military intelligence agency, were shown to the Dutch media.
Lavrov confirmed his office would summon the Dutch ambassador over the issue on Monday.
“Yes, we are inviting the ambassador from the Netherlands to bring his attention to this point of view… We will give more information (later),” he said.
Lavrov added that Russia had already discussed the incident with The Hague’s envoy in September after Dutch media broke the news over the Russians’ expulsion, but nothing “coherent” had emerged from the discussion.
A further meeting between the Russian ambassador and Dutch authorities on October 3 had also failed to produce any “facts”, the foreign minister said.
“Once again we are dealing with a sort of loudspeaker diplomacy, a disregard for legal mechanisms” for resolving such disputes through proper channels, Lavrov said.