Putin’s thugs go Dutch

“Throughout 2013 many renowned institutions will participate in the Netherlands-Russia Year, celebrating the rich bilateral relations between these two countries. A busy events calendar is underway throughout the year.”

Congratulations to the Amsterdam website for this clairvoyant quote of last year. The events calendar of the Netherlands-Russia Year has indeed been busy, if perhaps not quite in the way the author anticipated.

One event involved a senior Russian diplomat (a euphemism for an SVR, previously KGB, spy) Dmitry Borodin.

In the good tradition of Russians certain of their impunity, Dmitry and his wife were making life difficult for their neighbours in The Hague. Reports of their noisy, drunken escapades were piling up, but there was little the police could do: the louts were protected by diplomatic immunity.

Finally, the police had no choice but to act. Mrs Borodin arrived home, driving in an erratic way suggesting that the car wasn’t being operated by someone in full command of the vehicle, or indeed herself.

This supposition the inebriated Mrs Borodin went on to prove empirically by playing pinball with four parked cars before staggering home. The assault on their property proved too much for the frugal Dutch. The police were called and this time they responded.

They arrested the woman and then visited her flat, where they found Mr Borodin drunkenly abusing the couple’s little children, pulling their hair and slapping them around. Now no cops in the world would stand by idly watching this sort of thing, diplomatic immunity or no diplomatic immunity.

The officers got into the act, only to have the drunken brute turn against them. In the ensuing fracas, the diplomat was roughed up and arrested.

Acting on the letter of the 1961 Geneva Convention governing such matters, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern protest, demanding an apology. Diplomats, according to the note, are off limits for criminal prosecution and their bodies mustn’t be confused with punching bags.

Not being an expert on diplomatic law, I can’t judge its letter, but I’m intrigued by its spirit. Suppose Borodin had been actually killing his children, rather than merely brutalising them. Wouldn’t the police have been within their right, at least moral right, to do whatever it took to stop the outrage?

Where do you draw the line beyond which human laws have to be superseded by humane ones? Anyway, as is the diplomatic convention, the Dutch government dutifully apologised. Case closed?

If both countries in the conflict were civilised, it would be. But since Russia was one party involved, it wasn’t.

Onno Elderenbosch, the deputy head of the Dutch embassy in Moscow, is 68 years old. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr Elderenbosch, but on general principle I’d venture a guess that his domestic behaviour differed from Mr Borodin’s.

I may be too hung up on ethnic stereotypes, and if you feel that way I’m sorry. But I just can’t imagine a Dutch diplomat on the cusp of old age getting pissed out of his mind and brutalising little tots, while his wife was drunkenly smashing her car into several parked vehicles.

Anyway, when Mr Elderenbosch got home yesterday, he saw two electricians tinkering with the fuse box in the staircase. When the diplomat opened his door, the ‘electricians’ pushed him inside, tied him up with tape, beat him up savagely and trashed his flat. Then they wrote ‘LGBT’ in lipstick on a mirror and rushed out, leaving the diplomat with what the reports describe as ‘light wounds’.

I’m amazed they didn’t write ‘KGB lives, okay?’ If the thugs were indeed LGBT activists, they’d have little reason to single out a representative of the country where their kind have had a free ride longer than anywhere else.

Holland was the first Western country to legalise, well, just about everything, including homomarriage, drugs (albeit consumed on designated premises), euthanasia – you name it. Gay Day parades, while repulsive everywhere, raise enormity to a whole new level in Amsterdam. Same-sex couples copulate in every imaginable fashion, with the police looking on with indulgent smiles; the city’s picturesque canals swell with discarded condoms.

Moreover, none of this is a secret. Everybody knows that LGBT activists love Holland more than any other country on earth. So I’m going to stick my neck out: there’s no way Mr Elderenbosch was assaulted by chaps identified by that acronym.

The incident bears every hallmark of tit-for-tat retaliation, reviving the memory of the Cold War. In those days, any time a diplomat was roughed up in Russia, his counterpart would be roughed up in the diplomat’s country.

A broken arm in Moscow spelled a broken arm in Washington, as everyone knew would be the case. Secret services often acted outside official channels, and the Geneva convention had no jurisdiction in the clandestine battlefield.

But the battlefield has been converted into luxury condominiums, hasn’t it? The Russians, though regrettably still a bit rough around the edges, are just like us now, aren’t they? Democracy and all?

If these are the questions you ask, you ought to thank Col. Putin and his sponsoring organisation. Their answer is as informative as it is unequivocal.


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