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Dutch foreign ministry apologizes to Russia over arrest, detention of diplomat

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Netherlands apologized to Russia on Wednesday for the arrest and detention over the weekend of a Russian diplomat by police in The Hague.

The swift apology by Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans was aimed at smoothing over a diplomatic spat that further soured relations already cooled by Russia’s seizure last month of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace protest vessel. Russia has charged all 30 activists with piracy, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence.

Timmermans said in a written statement that an investigation has established that the arrest of Dmitry Borodin late Saturday was a breach of the Vienna Convention that regulates diplomatic relations between nations, including diplomatic immunity.

For the breach, “the state of the Netherlands offers the Russian Federation its apologies,” the statement said.

Dutch state broadcaster NOS reported that police traced a car that was involved in an accident earlier in the evening to Borodin’s home, and neighbours told police who came to investigate that they were worried for the safety of the children inside. Police declined to comment on the incident.

Borodin accused the police of even pulling his 1-year-old daughter’s hair as they took him and both his children to the station late Saturday. Borodin, whose diplomatic title at Russia’s embassy in The Hague is minister-counsellor, 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.

Timmermans said he “understands” the action of police officers who arrested Borodin — a statement unlikely to appease Russian demands for action against officers involved.

The statement adds that the two countries “remain in talks” about the situation.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Borodin had been arrested over an “absolutely contrived” allegation of child abuse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin even weighed in from an APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Tuesday — calling the arrest a “rude violation” of treaties on diplomatic relations.

The Netherlands and Russia chose 2013 as a year to celebrate historical ties, but it has been filled with tension instead.

In January, Russian dissident Aleksandr Dolmatov committed suicide in a Dutch deportation centre, 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 with 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.

As the diplomatic spat continued, Russia also questioned the quality of one of the Netherlands’ key exports to Russia — cheese.

Russian news agencies on Wednesday quoted the chief of the country’s agriculture products agency as saying that a Russian delegation currently inspecting Dutch cheese-making facilities is not satisfied with the quality of the local produce. Sergei Dankvert said the results are preliminary and a full report is not expected until Saturday.