The Kremlin has said that the Dutch government has not provided any evidence to support its accusations that Russian spies attempted to hack the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in April.
The denial follows claims made by The Netherlands that it had foiled a hacking attempt against the OPCW and expelled four suspected Russian spies who had positioned a vehicle filled with electronic equipment in the parking lot of a hotel near the headquarters of the international institution.
The alleged hacking attempt took place in April, when the OPCW was investigating the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in England, by suspected Russian military intelligence agents. The organisation was also investigating an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, attributed by Western capitals to Syrian government forces backed by Moscow.
“There was nothing secret about the travel of our specialists to the Netherlands. It was a routine trip,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a joint press conference in Moscow with his Italian counterpart, Enzo Moavero Milanesi.” They did not hide when they moved to the hotel, when they were at the airport, or when they went to the embassy. They were arrested without explanation. It seemed like a misunderstanding,” he said.
According to Mr Lavrov, who did not specify either the work being carried out by the arrested persons or what he meant by “routine travel”, this case shows a “contempt for existing mechanisms (…) to deal with such issues”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the diplomatic passports used by the four deported individuals do not prove that they were spies. “There are usual channels of work (…). They transmit documents, evidence and information through these channels, he said. We do not intend to talk about such topics in the media,” he added.