Two Russian diplomats in the Netherlands have been exposed as spies by the Dutch intelligence service AIVD.
The spies worked undercover as accredited diplomats at the Russian embassy in The Hague. However, in reality, they were Russian intelligence officers dispatched to hunt down sensitive information from Dutch technology companies and institutions, says AIVD.
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has withdrawn the Russians’ diplomatic immunity by declaring them persona non grata. The diplomats will now be forced to leave the country, reports the NOS.
One of the spies reportedly created a substantial network of sources, while the other had a supporting role. They searched for information on civil and military technology, like artificial intelligence, semiconductors and nanotechnology, and others.
The targeted companies have not been released by AIVD to the public, but have been informed of the breaches.
Punishment for sources
The spies paid the sources for the information. At least one source was a foreigner who will now be deported by the IND under immigration law.
The other sources will not be punished by the Public Prosecution Service because it is not illegal to have contact with someone from a foreign service. However, their employers will be responsible to determine if secret information was shared with the spies and report it if necessary, said an intelligence spokesman.
Retaliation from Russia
In response, Russia will likely tell two Dutch diplomats in Russia to leave. The Russian embassy in The Hague told Tass news agency that the Netherlands should expect countermeasures and that the Dutch ministry “has not provided evidence of illegal activities by Russian diplomats.”
Russia and the Netherlands have a difficult relationship at present. This is partially because of Russia’s refusal to cooperate with the MH17 investigation and criminal proceedings.
Four Russian officers were caught in 2018 while hacking into the computer systems of the OPCW, an organization for banning chemical weapons. However, Russia has also claimed that tracking equipment was found on the car of a Russian military attache in the Netherlands in August this year.
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