Russian Diplomats Ordered Out of the Netherlands

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The Dutch government said Saturday that "a number" of Russian diplomats will have to leave the Netherlands, accusing Moscow of trying to smuggle spies into the country that is home to institutions including the International Criminal Court and the global chemical weapons watchdog.

The announcement is the latest twist in a diplomatic dispute between the two countries that began shortly after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago sparked a war on Europe's eastern flank.

"Despite numerous attempts by the Netherlands to find a solution, Russia continues to try to get intelligence officers into the Netherlands under diplomatic cover," Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a statement. "We cannot and will not allow that."

He added that it remains "important to keep the embassies open as a communication channel, even now that relations with Russia are more difficult than ever."

The Russian diplomats were given two weeks to leave the country. A Russian trade office in Amsterdam was ordered shut by Tuesday.

As well as accusing Russia of trying to post spies in the Netherlands, the government said Moscow was refusing to grant visas to Dutch diplomats to staff the Netherlands' consulate in St. Petersburg and embassy in the Russian capital.

The Dutch consulate general in St. Petersburg is being closed as of Monday.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Dutch government expelled 17 Russian intelligence officers. Russia responded by kicking out 15 Dutch diplomats.

The Russian Embassy in The Hague did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.