AMSTERDAM (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded Tuesday that the Netherlands apologize for arresting a Russian diplomat, further straining relations between the countries after Moscow decided to put some Greenpeace activists on trial. The tensions come during a year meant to celebrate the countries' historic ties.
The diplomat, Dmitry Borodin, was arrested by Dutch police in The Hague late Saturday, and he has accused the police of even pulling his one-year-old daughter's hair as they took him and both his children to the station. Borodin, whose title is minister-counselor, gave his version of events on his Twitter account. He said the arrest came even though he identified himself and said he had diplomatic immunity.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Borodin had been arrested over an "absolutely contrived" allegation of child abuse, and that the Dutch ambassador to Russia had been summoned to the ministry in Moscow to receive an "official protest" over the case. The Netherlands' Foreign Ministry said an "incident occurred with a Russian diplomat that led to an arrest by the Dutch police" and that it is under review.
Speaking from the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia, Putin described the arrest as a "rude violation" of treaties on diplomatic relations. The Dutch ministerial statement, while not exactly conciliatory, said, "If it emerges from the investigation that actions were taken in conflict with the Vienna Treaty on Diplomatic Relations, the Netherlands will apologize to Russia."
The timing of the disputed arrest is sensitive. On Sept. 18, the Russian coast guard seized the Dutch-flagged ship Arctic Sunrise after Greenpeace activists used it to stage a demonstration at an offshore oil platform owned by Gazprom. Last week, the Russians charged all 30 on board the ship with piracy — which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said Friday that he would seek to recover the ship at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in Hamburg, Germany, because it wasn't clear whether the ship's seizure was legal. He said he would seek the release of the 30 detainees, among them activists and journalists, via diplomatic channels.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, staged demonstrations around the world over the weekend calling for the release of the "Arctic 30," who are being held in the northern Russian city of Murmansk. A Murmansk court on Tuesday denied bail to two of the activists and a freelance photographer who was with them.
According to Borodin's Twitter account, men he took to be Dutch police entered his home late Saturday night after he had refused them entry, that he identified himself and told them he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. The Russian diplomat said they handcuffed him anyway and knocked him in the head. He and his two young children were then taken to a police station and released in the early hours of the following morning.
A report by Dutch state broadcaster NOS said that police traced a car that was involved in an accident earlier in the evening to Borodin's home, and neighbors told police who came to investigate they were worried for the safety of the children inside.
Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed an apparently similar explanation brought forward by Dutch diplomats in a formal communique. "The attempt of the Dutch side to somehow justify the brutal act of the police does not stand up to the most elementary criticism," the Russian ministry said in a statement. "The facts speak for themselves: During the night, a highly placed Russian diplomat had his apartment broken into by the police, who beat him, put him in handcuffs and took him to the police station."
Borodin tweeted Tuesday that he and his children were fine but that he would not speak further about the matter because it is "no longer a private affair." Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov, known as a hardliner on foreign policy, said on Twitter that it was unlikely Dutch police would have acted against the diplomat without approval from their superiors. "This looks like a response to the trial against Greenpeace."
The Netherlands and Russia chose 2013 as a year to celebrate historical ties, but it has been filled with tension instead, even before the Greenpeace case. In January, Russian dissident Aleksandr Dolmatov committed suicide in a Dutch deportation center, where he had been placed due to mistakes by Dutch police and immigration authorities. In April, Amsterdam's mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, declined to meet Putin during a visit to the Netherlands due to the Russian leader's anti-gay policies. And in August, Dutch gay groups held a protest ahead of a major concert by Russian state musicians and dancers, to protest Russia's law forbidding exposing minors to homosexual "propaganda."
The new Dutch king, Willem-Alexander, is due to visit Russia and meet with Putin in November.
Mike Corder contributed to this story from The Hague, Netherlands, and Mills contributed from Moscow.