Kremlin says Netherlands' expulsion of Russian agents was a "misunderstanding"

Emily Nicolle
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Holds Press Briefing At The United Nations
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the whole thing was a "misunderstanding" (Source: Getty)

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov today dismissed the charges against four Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents in the Netherlands as a "misunderstanding".

The four agents were arrested by Dutch authorities in the middle of an attack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in April, and were later expelled from the country.

"There is no secret about the trip of Russian specialists to The Hague in April this year," Lavrov told TASS, the Russian state news agency.

"This was a route trip. They did not hide when they arrived at the airport, checked in at a hotel and visited our embassy."

He added: "They arrested them, didn't explain anything to them, didn't let them get in touch with our representatives in the Russian embassy in the Netherlands, and asked them to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding, to be honest."

Read more: UK warns of further sanctions on Russia after cyber attacks

Russia summoned the Dutch ambassador to the Kremlin this morning to discuss the situation at-hand.

The news follows a statement from the Kremlin which said allegations made by Western countries such as the Netherlands of cyber espionage and attacks lacked any concrete proof.

The Netherlands provided a detailed account of the Russian agents' arrest at a news conference last week, in which images of their passports were revealed. This was in addition to unveiling several slip-ups that had been made by the agents, including leaving a receipt behind in their car from the GRU barracks in Moscow and hacking computer equipment stored in the boot.

Meanwhile the UK released information which alleged Russian agents had carried out several attacks on UK and international government computer systems, as well as some small businesses, since 2015.

The four men, alongside three other Russian agents, were indicted later that day after the Dutch conference by US authorities on multiple charges of fraud, cyber espionage and money laundering.