A year of “friendship” between bears and tulips

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The King of the Netherlands will finally visit Russia despite all the beaten diplomats and jailed Greenpeace activists. The year of friendship turned out into a diplomatic conflict all the world media say, but then they tend to interpret differently actions of the protagonists of this theater performance that The Guardian hit the mark “the least successful diplomatic initiative in recent European history”. Let’s have a look of how it was developing during this year.

Scene 1. (Initial incident). April. “Putin and LGBT”

Russian president Putin visited Amsterdam to open the year of friendship and was met with a big LGBT-demonstration anti legislation banning “homosexual propaganda”. The mayor of the city didn’t came itself to meet president and the government didn’t hide their support to the protestants.

Answering to the most burning questions Putin emphasized that laws passed in the regions of the Russian Federation concerning the ban promotion of homosexuality in schools. “It shows the mood of the whole Russian society”, and in no way was provoked from the federal government, one of the largest news agencies in Russia RIA Novosti informed. However, he noted that can hardly imagine same-sex marriages in Chechnya. “Can you imagine that? There could be victims then”, – he said.

Dutch News portal underlined another quote of Mr. Putin: “Speaking to the media after talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Putin reportedly said he did not understand why the Netherlands has a legal organization for pedophiles and why there is a political party which bans women from getting involved in politics – a reference to the fundamentalist Christian SGP”.

Putin was informed about meeting preparations and didn’t show any offence but nearly two weeks after his visit all Russians could see plenty of reportages on TV showing Holland as state of prostitutes and drug dealers.

Scene 2. (Rising action)September. “Greenpeace pirates”

Greenpeace activists tried to climb oil platform “Prirazlomnaya” to protest for ecological safety of Arctic. All the crew including two Dutch citizens of the ship Arctic Sunrise that was travelling under the flag of the Netherlands was arrested. They are still in custody.

“Ecologists were unfamiliar with phrase “national treasure”, – said weekly magazine Russian Reporter, – so they were very surprised when the next day the Federal Security Service commandeered their ship Arctic Sunrise (sailing under the Dutch flag), and everyone who was on board were accused of piracy”.

Recently the Netherlands asked UN court to force Russia to release Greenpeace activists.

English newspaper The Telegraph came up with a huge article where they were very detailed about the claims of Netherlands. (Above all, six of the 30 detainees are British): “The argument of the Netherlands is that in international waters, ships have the right to freedom of navigation and so this means they may not be boarded, inspected, detained or arrested except with the permission of the flag state. There are exceptions to this, but they are limited.”

Scene 3. (Climax)October. “Diplomats”

“The arrest of Greenpeace activists was followed by semi-criminal-semi-conspirological series of attacks on Russian and Dutch diplomats, reminded the episodes that took place in the era of the “cold war”, – said Russian internet media Gazeta.ru.

Russian diplomat Dmitry Borodin was arrested in his house in The Hague because of complains on his drunken behavior from his neighbors. He said he was beaten by the Dutch policemen and took to a police station despite the diplomatic immunity. Russia demanded an apology.

British The Guardian wrote: “Dutch reports suggested Borodin and his wife were inebriated. The Russians dismissed the claims and said he was assaulted by police with no legitimate reason. Putin demanded a Dutch apology, saying Borodin had diplomatic immunity and the incident had violated the Vienna convention. A foreign ministry spokesman described the detention as “incomprehensible and unacceptable”.

Minister of Foreign affairs of the Netherlands did apologize but rejected to punish the policemen.

“However, The Duma was not satisfied with the Dutch government apology, – said Russian website Polit.ru. –  Head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Alexei Pushkov noted that “the Hague offered us an apology, but actually justified the actions of the police, calling them professional”. “It means that there is an apology, but no one guilty”, – concluded the Pushkov”.

Ten days later similar scenario came up in Moscow: Dutch diplomat Onno Elderenbosch was attacked in his flat by two unknown men who painted LGBT with red lipstick on the mirror. Was it a coincidence that Onno Elderenbosch held a similar position in Dutch embassy that Borodin in Russian?

Russian media quoted Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry : “Moscow expresses regret at the unfortunate incident that occurred the evening of 15 October, when minister-counselor of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Moscow O. Elderenbos was beaten by two unidentified in his own apartment”. Regret but not apology, as Russian opposition TV channel Dozhd interpreted it.

At the same time Associated Press made a statistics of recent attacks on diplomats in Moscow: “In past years, the ambassadors of Britain and Estonia faced harassment from members of a Kremlin-backed youth group. Former British Ambassador Anthony Brenton was hounded in 2006 after he spoke at a Russian opposition gathering, while former Estonian Ambassador Marina Kaljurand was targeted in 2007 as Russians heatedly protested the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the center of the Estonian capital”.

“Diplomatic” reply of the Netherlands was not long in coming: 17 of October the flat of another Russian diplomat in The Hague was broke in.

Frans Timmermans wrote on his Facebook page: “I have called Russian Ambassador to inform him about the good work of The Hague police, which thanks to the investigation has found a suspect of forced entry into the home on the Banstraat. The suspect is known as active jailbird. It is good that such a quick result is reached, that confirms what the police thought:  this was a “regular” burglary”.

Scene 4. (Resolution) November. Visit of the king of Netherlands to Russia

King of the Netherlands will visit Russia despite all the diplomatic conflicts claim world media. “King Willem-Alexander is seen as a consummate diplomat who is unlikely to make waves when he meets Putin. – predict the Guardian. – Instead, the focus is likely to be economic. The king will be accompanied by Dutch ministers and businessmen – the Netherlands is Russia’s biggest trade partner in the EU. Nevertheless, there is extreme unease in the Netherlands about the timing of the visit”.

Russian newspaper Gazeta.ru especially emphasized the statement of Mark Rutte made in the interview with de Telegraaf and wrote: “Prime Minister did not comment on the possible role of the King in the settlement of the Russian-Netherlands crisis, but said: “We do not have to use the King as a pawn”.

Out theater performance called “The year of Friendship” seem to have circular plot. Started with one official visit it will end with another. Now we can only ask our imagination: what can we expect from Russian activists and authorities to make the reception of Willem-Alexander in Russia even warmer?

Image credit: Kremlin.ru

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