Dutch diplomat attacked in Russia

Deputy head of Dutch mission is beaten in his apartment, escalating tension between the two countries

The Dutch Embassy in Moscow.
Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

A senior Dutch diplomat was attacked by unknown assailants in Moscow late Tuesday night, Russian news agencies reported, a week after President Vladimir Putin demanded an apology for a Russian diplomat's alleged beating in the Netherlands.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans confirmed on his Facebook page that the attack on Onno Elderenbosch, deputy head of the Netherlands mission in Russia, did take place, and he summoned the Russian ambassador on Wednesday for an explanation, according to Dutch media.

Russia was quick to express its regrets. The country’s investigative committee said in a statement that it was investigating the attack on the diplomat, who was pushed to the floor and tied up with tape by men posing as electricians.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a security source as saying Elderenbosch had reported that the assailants beat him and left "a heart with the letters LGBT," the abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, on the diplomat's wall.

Putin was met in Amsterdam earlier this year with a gay pride parade in which activists waved pink and orange balloons to protest against Russia's ban on gay "propaganda" directed at minors, which has sparked international criticism.

Interfax reported on Wednesday that a criminal case has been opened by the Russian Investigative Committee.

Dutch media said the diplomat suffered minor injuries, but Interfax's police source said he did not ask for medical treatment.

Tensions between Russia and the Netherlands grew last week when police in The Hague detained a Russian diplomat over accusations that he was mistreating his children. The Moscow attack resembled Russia's version of that incident, in which the government said its diplomat was badly beaten in his home in front of his children.

The Netherlands later apologized for breaching the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Earlier this month, the Netherlands launched legal proceedings against Russia, saying Moscow had unlawfully detained activists aboard a Dutch-registered Greenpeace ship who were protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.

Russia arrested 30 activists, including two Dutch citizens, on board the ship and charged them with piracy, which carries a jail sentence of 15 years.

On Tuesday, Russia denied bail for two more activists, British and Italian citizens, from the Greenpeace ship.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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