Sergei Skripal

Netherlands expels Russian spies targeting chemical weapons watchdog

Powerpoint showing 4 Russian GRU officers
Dutch officials showing four suspected Russian GRU officers captured on an airport security camera. Photo: Bart Maat/AFP/Getty Images

The Netherlands has expelled four Russian military intelligence officers who were attempting to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a global watchdog investigating the Novichok poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, reports the AP.

The details: Dutch authorities said the Russians were expelled from the country on April 13, the same day they were discovered in a hotel parking lot across the street from OPCW setting up a car full of spy equipment. A receipt shows the four men, who are also suspected of targeted the investigation into the 2014 Malaysian Airlines crash over Ukraine, took a taxi from the headquarters of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, to the Moscow airport.

Putin calls poisoned former agent Sergei Skripal a "traitor"

Putin
Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Sergei Skripal — the former Russian double agent who was poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England — "a traitor to the motherland" while addressing an energy conference in Moscow, according to the Financial Times.

"I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Mr. Skripal is almost some kind of human rights activist. He is just a spy. A traitor to the motherland. There is such a thing — a traitor to the motherland. Here he is — one of them."

Why it matters: The U.K. has accused two alleged Russian military intelligence officers of poisoning Skripal and his daughter last year, and claimed that the operation was almost certainly approved at a senior level of the Kremlin. Up until now, Putin's strategy for dealing with the diplomatic fallout has largely been to deny that Russia or the accused men had any role in the attack, insisting that the U.K. has no evidence for its claims.