Russian embassy must reduce staff size following deadlocked negotiations
Negotiations with Russia on the conditions for posting diplomats to diplomatic missions have failed to achieve any results. Russia has repeatedly tried to covertly station intelligence officers in the Netherlands as diplomats. At the same time, Russia has refused to issue visas to Dutch diplomats to staff the consulate-general in St Petersburg and the embassy in Moscow. This is unacceptable and it has led to an untenable situation.
In that light the government has decided that the Russian embassy in The Hague should not be allowed more bilateral diplomats than the Dutch embassy has in Moscow. A number of Russian diplomats will therefore have to leave the Netherlands, and the Dutch consulate-general in St Petersburg will have to temporarily close due to staff shortages. The government has also decided that the Russian trade office in Amsterdam will have to close. Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra informed the House of Representatives of this on Saturday.
Consulate-general in St Petersburg
‘Despite multiple attempts on the part of the Netherlands to find a solution, Russia continues to try to bring intelligence officers into the Netherlands under diplomatic cover,’ Mr Hoekstra explained. ‘We cannot and will not allow this. That said, it’s important to keep the embassies open as a communication channel, even though relations with Russia are more strained than ever before.’
The Russian diplomats who are not allowed to stay in the country must leave the Netherlands within two weeks. The Russian trade office in Amsterdam must close by 21 February.
The Dutch consulate-general in St Petersburg will close on 20 February. Among other things, this means that Dutch people and organisations will no longer be able to receive help from St Petersburg. The Dutch embassy in Moscow will remain open, however.
The negotiations on visas for diplomats have been under way for nearly a year now. After Russia invaded Ukraine, the Netherlands expelled 17 Russian intelligence officers in March 2022 (article in Dutch). In response Russia expelled 15 Dutch diplomats. Since then, the two sides have been negotiating conditions for posting new diplomats to their respective missions.