The Netherlands is expelling 17 Russian diplomats who were “secretly active” as intelligence officers, the Dutch foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
The move is one of the latest in a snowballing series of tit-for-tat expulsions of Russian diplomats by Western countries and retaliatory measures by Moscow.
“Today, the ambassador of Russia was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” and informed of the expulsion, the Hague-based ministry said in a statement.
“The reason is that there is information… showing that the persons concerned, accredited as diplomats, are secretly active as intelligence officers,” it said.
“The cabinet has decided to do this because of the threat to national security posed by this group,” the statement added, saying the intelligence threat against the Netherlands remained high.
The “current attitude of Russia in a broader sense makes the presence of these intelligence officers undesirable,” the ministry said.
The decision comes as many other Western countries also expelled Russian diplomats, including the United States, which kicked out 12 intelligence operatives in early March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russia in return expelled 12 US diplomats.
The Netherlands in 2018 also kicked out four alleged Russian spies who were accused of trying to hack the world’s chemical watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.