Russia expels Dutch journalist Tom Vennink | Russia

Russia has expelled a Dutch journalist, his newspaper said, as Moscow continues its crackdown on domestic and foreign journalists in the country.

De Volkskrant reporter Tom Vennink said his visa was revoked and he was given three days to leave the country after struggling to renew his journalist accreditation.

This is the second expulsion of a foreign journalist in recent months, following Russia’s August decision to ban BBC journalist Sarah Rainsford from the country as a journalist “Security threat”.

Officially, Vennink has been targeted by the Russian Interior Ministry for two minor administrative violations, including failure to register his temporary address, dating back to 2019. But an increasingly bitter relationship between Moscow and Amsterdam appears to have played a role. role in the decision.

Vennink, a respected foreign correspondent who has worked from Russia since 2015, said the expulsion came as a surprise.

“Russian journalists face serious obstacles in their work, but as a foreign correspondent I have been able to cover Russia and the Russians relatively freely for the past six years,” he said. . He is now back in the Netherlands.

In a published article by de Volkskrant, editor-in-chief Pieter Klok called the timing of the eviction “a mystery.” The journalist’s forced departure was unprecedented for the newspaper, which has had a correspondent in Moscow since 1988.

In an interview, Klok called Russia’s decision-making process opaque. “It’s also the problem of doing something,” he said. “Because you don’t know where to start. “

Klok said there was growing concern in the days leading up to Vennink’s expulsion as his accreditation had only been renewed for a short time.

It coincided with a period of heightened tensions between Moscow and The Hague which put Dutch journalists in Russia on their nerves. “The feeling is among all Dutch correspondents that there is a danger that they could be expelled from the country,” Klok said.

Court hearings are underway in The Hague over the 2014 shooting of the MH17 airliner over Ukraine, which killed nearly 200 Dutch people. European governments have said the missile that shot down the plane came from Russia, although Moscow denies it.

Russia also protested a recent decision by the Dutch appeals court not to give it control of a Scythian gold treasure that was on loan from Crimean museums when Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. The Dutch Supreme Court is due to rule on an amount of $ 50 billion on Friday. arbitral award that Russia was ordered to pay to the former shareholders of the late oil producer Yukos.

Klok said it was possible that court cases played a role in the decision, but added: “This is just speculation and we just don’t know.”

Outgoing Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Knapen told de Volkskrant: “It is not acceptable to the Netherlands that a journalist has to leave a country against his will.

Russia cracked down on press freedom last year, targeting dozens of local journalists as “foreign agents” and “unwanted organizations” after a series of high-profile leaks about prominent allies of Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence services.

But foreign journalists were rarely the target of deportations until Rainsford was told his visa would not be extended. Moscow said the reason was the UK’s refusal in 2019 to accredit a reporter from the Russian state news agency Tass. Still, Rainsford said border guards told her she would not be allowed to return to Russia because she was classified as a national security threat. She left the country at the end of August.

Luke Harding, the Guardian’s former Moscow correspondent, was deported in 2011. He was refused entry at the border and an airport security official working for the Federal Border Service told him: “ For you, Russia is closed. Russia banned American journalist David Satter in 2014, and a Polish correspondent for the daily Gazeta Wyborcza was ordered to leave in 2015.

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