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Dutch Newspaper Says Russia Has Expelled Its Correspondent

Updated

De Volkskrant correspondent Tom Vennink

A Dutch newspaper says Russian authorities have expelled its correspondent who has lived in the country since 2015 -- the second such decision against a Western journalist in months.

The De Volkskrant daily said in its report on November 3 that its correspondent Tom Vennink's residence permit in Russia was canceled two days earlier due to what authorities called "two administrative violations."

According to the newspaper, Vennink was informed that he was barred from entering Russia until January 2025 and ordered to leave the country in three days.

Russia's Interior Ministry explained the decision by citing two alleged violations -- Vennink's failure to inform authorities in Moscow in a timely manner about his new address in 2019, for which he was ordered to pay a fine, and the journalist visiting the Far Eastern Chukotka Peninsula in January 2020 without obtaining preliminary permission from the region's authorities.

"It is a mystery to us why the Russian government has decided this now," De Volkskrant's Editor in Chief Pieter Klok said, adding that in previous years "such administrative violations were never an obstacle to extending the residence permit."

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Vennink said “there were already some issues” in getting a new accreditation from the Foreign Ministry.

“I [usually] get an accreditation for one year. But [last] time, I only got an accreditation for seven weeks. And there was no explanation for this given to me,” he said from Amsterdam.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry expressed regret about the Russian authorities' decision.

"It is not acceptable for the Netherlands if a journalist has to leave a country against his will. Press freedom is a great asset," outgoing Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Knapen said.

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In its report about the expulsion of its correspondent, De Volkskrant wrote that Dutch-Russian relations have been tense since the downing of MH17 by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard, mostly Dutch citizens, in 2014.

The plane was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The newspaper also said that the decision to deport Vennink came days after an appeals court in the Netherlands ruled that Ukraine has legal control over a trove of ancient artifacts from Crimea that was on loan to a Dutch museum when Russia seized the peninsula in 2014.

The decision was hailed by Ukraine and slammed by Russia.

On November 5, the Dutch Supreme Court is expected to rule in a long-running conflict over the defunct Yukos oil company, in which the Russian government and former shareholders are facing each other.

An adviser to the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the Permanent Court of Arbitration had correctly concluded that Russia owes 47 billion euros ($54.4 billion) to the former shareholders of the energy giant.

"There are a lot of problems, diplomatic problems, and it is possible that Russia has decided to expel me because of this," Vennink told RFE/RL.

In late August, Russian authorities expelled a BBC correspondent, Sarah Rainsford, after Moscow accused London of discriminating against Russian journalists working in the United Kingdom.

The British broadcaster called Rainsford’s expulsion an assault on media freedom, while Rainsford wrote: "Russia is entering a dark period in which it no longer pretends to be a democracy."

With reporting by De Volkskrant and Mark Krutov from RFE/RL's Russian Service
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