R.ussland has already expelled the second western correspondent within a good two months. Tom Vennink of the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant was told to leave Russia within three days on Monday, as he told his medium. That was justified with administrative offenses. In 2019 he received a fine for not informing the authorities about a change of residence in Moscow, and in 2020 another fine for visiting the Chukotka area in the far north-east of Siberia without a permit. But only in the current year, last week, his visa was only extended by seven weeks instead of the usual one year.
Vennink suspected that the real reasons for his expulsion were different from those officially stated. He recalled the expulsion of BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford, who had to leave Russia at the end of August. Rainsford’s expulsion was presented in response to a British refusal to extend a Russian state media official two years ago.
But British-Russian relations have deteriorated, among other things due to the Novichok attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England in 2018. Accordingly, Vennink now recalled that Russia’s relations with the Netherlands also deteriorated after flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014. Most of the 298 fatalities came from the Netherlands, where a trial is currently taking place in which three Russians and one Ukrainian are indicted in absentia.
Deportation could not be prevented
De Volkskrant’s editor-in-chief, Pieter Klok, said it was “a mystery why the Russian government decided that now”. Administrative offenses – which can come about quickly in Russia – would not have stood in the way of a residence permit in previous years. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Knapen said it was unacceptable for a journalist to have to leave a country against his will. Attempts to prevent Vennink’s expulsion were unsuccessful.
Vennink, who has worked in Moscow since 2015, will not be allowed to return to Russia until 2025. He spoke of an “intimidating effect on other correspondents” and said that he had “enjoyed living in Moscow for the past six years. I listened to the Russians with great interest and got to know their country. From booming port cities in the Arctic Circle to empty mountain villages in the Caucasus. I’ve also built a private life in Russia. I will miss my girlfriend, friends and my beautiful Moscow district. “
In addition to the MH17 proceedings, the background to the expulsion could include the fact that a Dutch court ruled last week that a Scythian gold treasure from the Ukrainian Crimea annexed by Moscow should not be returned to Russia, but to Ukraine.
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