Spies in Netherlands for "routine trip", Russia says

OPWC headquarters in The Hague
OPWC headquarters in The HaguePhoto: Wikimedia Commons

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that the four Russian spies caught in The Hague in April was in the Netherlands for a routine trip. Russia denies that the secret service agents wanted to hack into chemical weapon watchdog OPCW, NU.nl reports. 

"There was nothing secret about the Russian specialists' trip to The Hague in April of this year. They did not hide, not when they checked into their hotel, not when they arrived at the airport and not when they visited our embassy", Lavrov said. 

According to the Kremlin, the West's accusations about Russia's cyber attack activities are "very general in nature" and "lack concrete evidence". The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed accusations that its secret service GRU wanted to hack into the OPCW network as "products of a vivid imagination".

The Dutch ambassador to Russia was summoned to the Kremlin on Monday, a spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said to NU.nl. Renee Jones-Bos had to explain the deportation of the four GRU agents from the Netherlands. Jones-Bos made clear that the Netherlands does not tolerate cyber attacks on international organizations based in the country. "We have given a clear signal that this kind of practice must stop", she said, according to the newspaper.

On Thursday Minister Ank Bijleveld of Defense announced that four Russian spies were caught in the vicinity of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons in The Hague in April. They had hacking equipment with them. According to Dutch military intelligence service MIVD, they wanted to hack into the OPCW WiFi network. At the time the OPCW was investigating a poison gas attack on  ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. The four spies were immediately deported.