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Russia warns Dutch over dairy, tulips in diplomatic row
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Oct 09, 2013

The Netherlands apologises for Russia envoy's detention: ministry
The Hague (AFP) Oct 09, 2013 - The Netherlands on Wednesday apologised to Russia after police in The Hague detained one of its diplomats over the weekend amid an escalating spat, the foreign ministry said.

"Based on police information, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans comes to the conclusion that the detention of the Russian diplomat... breached the Vienna Convention," ministry spokesman Thijs van Son said in an email.

"Because of this the Netherlands apologises to the Russian Federation," it said, adding however that police had acted out of professional responsibility when detaining diplomat Dmitry Borodin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called Borodin's detention at a police station for several hours on Saturday night "the most gross breach of the Vienna Convention", and demanded an apology.

Dutch police have declined to comment on the case, but Dutch media reports have cited police documents alleging that Borodin was detained after police found him drunk and barely able to stand after neighbours said he was mistreating his two young children.

"At the same time Minister Timmermans personally understands the behaviour of the police involved, who acted out of professional responsibility when confronted with a situation that they discovered after being called," the statement said.

"The Netherlands and Russia remain in contact over the further resolution of this incident."

Ties between Russia and the Netherlands have deteriorated sharply since Russian investigators last week charged 30 crew members of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, with piracy over a protest against Arctic oil drilling.

The Netherlands hit back by launching legal action to free the activists, who face up to 15 years in jail.

The Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Dutch police of raiding Borodin's apartment in The Hague and beating him up before taking him to a police station for hours of questioning on accusations of mistreating his children.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations grants diplomats immunity from arrest.

Russia hinted Wednesday it may ban the import of Dutch tulips and dairy products in an escalating row between the nations sparked by the arrests of Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic oil drilling.

The head of Russia's veterinary and plant monitoring service told Interfax that the results of Russia's ongoing audit of Dutch dairy products "have been unsatisfactory".

Sergei Dankvert accused his Dutch counterparts of approving the safety of dairy produce "without seeing the product" and improperly labelling exports.

Dankvert's spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko separately told Moscow Echo radio that Russia this year has already placed 15 Dutch dairy producers "under special control" -- a move observers say is often followed by product bans.

Alekseyenko said Russia also had problems with the quality of Dutch tulips and other flowers the country has been exporting across Europe for many centuries.

"We are not only talking about flowers but also... planting material," Alekseyenko told Russian News Service radio.

"In other words, we are talking about a full range of products imported from the Netherlands," the spokesman said.

Russia has often been accused of using trade as a diplomatic weapon. It banned dairy imports from rotating EU president Lithuania on Monday following the Baltic state's attempt to draw ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine closer to the 28-nation bloc.

Tensions with the Netherlands first surfaced last week when the country filed a legal case against Russia's arrest last month of the crew of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship that was protesting Arctic oil drilling.

The crew members -- who come from 18 countries including Britain and the United States -- have been charged with piracy and face jail terms of up to 15 years.

Russia has shrugged off the Dutch legal move and has put the entire crew in pre-trial detention for two months pending an investigation.

Relations deteriorated further on Tuesday when Russia accused the Dutch authorities of illegally detaining a top Moscow diplomat in The Hague over allegations of domestic abuse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the detention at the weekend of diplomat Dmitry Borodin "the most gross breach of the Vienna Convention" and demanded a formal apology from the Netherlands.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations grants diplomats immunity from arrest.

The Dutch side said it was investigating the incident and would only apologise "if the investigation shows that this was handled in a way that contravened the Vienna Convention".


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