Russia has decided to expel two Dutch diplomats from the country in a tit-for-tat move after the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from the Netherlands on espionage charges last month.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that the retaliatory move came in response to a "provocative" decision by The Hague in December to expel two Russian embassy staff for allegedly spying on the Dutch high-tech sector, describing the allegations as "unfounded and slanderous”.
The ministry further said it had summoned Dutch charge d'affaires Joost Reintjes to inform him about Moscow’s decision and to tell him that the two diplomats had two weeks to leave the country.
"The Russian side, guided by the principle of reciprocity, decided to expel from Russia two diplomatic employees of the embassy of the Netherlands in Moscow," it said.
On December 10, Dutch security officials said the country was expelling two Russian diplomats after "rolling up" a spy network that targeted hi-tech industries.
The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) said that officers from Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, had built up a "substantial" network of sources that could have damaged national interests.
Russia's embassy in The Hague said at the time that the Netherlands had presented no evidence of unlawful acts by the Russian diplomats.
Moscow called the expulsions “a provocative gesture” and said it would retaliate in kind, raising the prospect of further tit-for-tat expulsions.
Relations between The Hague and Moscow have been strained since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014.
The Boeing 777 was en route from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and the crew — citizens of 10 different countries — on board the plane were killed.
The Netherlands says Moscow was responsible for the disaster, in which 196 Dutch have been killed.
The downing took place at the height of an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, which pit Kiev’s military against pro-Moscow forces in the mainly Russian-speaking regions.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow, however, denies the allegations.