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Russia says suspected spy actions were routine Dutch trip

Four Russian officers of the GRU are escorted to their flight after being expelled from the Netherlands on April 13 for allegedly trying to hack into the network of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a U.N. watchdog agency. (Dutch Defense Ministry/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.

Last week, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.

Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.

“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on October 8 after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.

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“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on October 8 to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.

Dutch defense officials last week released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.

The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.