Netherlands expelled 4 Russians in April for allegedly targeting chemical weapons watchdog

Netherlands expelled 4 Russians in April for allegedly targeting chemical weapons watchdog
The Netherlands expelled four Russian intelligence officers in April, who allegedly targeted the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Moscow has dubbed the allegations “spy mania.”

The operation was the work of Russian military intelligence agents from the GRU, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said during a media conference on Thursday. The minister insists that the Russian agents were targeting the Hague-based chemical weapons watchdog. Four Russian intelligence officers were expelled from the country in April, she added.

According to Bijleveld, the alleged operation was disrupted on April 13. The Russians had diplomatic passports, she said, adding that the men had taken photos of the organization's surroundings in The Hague.

On April 13, they allegedly parked a car next to the office of the watchdog. Their vehicle contained high-tech equipment that was able to hack into the organization's WiFi network.

Dutch Major General Onno Eichelsheim, who also spoke at the media conference, insists that the Russians “were not on vacation” and one of the men had €20,000 ($23,000) in cash.The Russian ambassador to the Netherlands has been summoned to the country’s Foreign Ministry, officials said.

He claimed the alleged attack was linked to the OPCW investigation into the poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.

The Russian Foreign Ministry described the Dutch allegations as “spy mania” towards Moscow.

‘Rich imagination’

Britain's Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Wilson, who was present at the media conference, said that the Russians also targeted the UK Foreign Office and Porton Down Defense and Science Laboratory.

READ MORE: UK claims Russian intelligence was behind Fancy Bears cyberattacks on WADA

Wilson echoed an earlier statement from UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who claimed that  Russia’s GRU was responsible for “reckless and indiscriminate” acts in cyberspace across the globe. Hunt also said the UK was discussing the possibility of further sanctions against Russia with its allies.

Reacting to Hunt’s accusations, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the allegations the product of someone with a “rich imagination.”

“It's some kind of a diabolical perfume cocktail [of allegations],” Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.

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