A possible international incident in brewing after a senior Dutch diplomat was attacked in his home in Moscow and discriminatory messages were left in lipstick on his mirror, creating yet another human rights embarrassment for Russia, with the Winter Olympics just around the corner.
According to RIA Novosti and the BBC, Onno Elderenbosch, the 66-year-old deputy chief of The Netherlands' Russian mission, suffered light injuries after arriving at his home and finding two men dressed as electricians inspecting a fuse box. When he entered his house, the two men followed and attacked him. Elderenbosch was tied up with duct tape while his apartment was trashed by the two intruders. The two men left a message on a mirror in lipstick: the letters "LGBT" inside a heart drawn with lipstick. A Russian tabloid, (via Buzzfeed and Lifenews) captured a picture of the lipstick drawing left on the mirror.
"Our people must be able to work there safely and I want the assurance that the Russian authorities also take their responsibility on that point," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans wrote on his Facebook page, according to a BBC translation. Russia's Investigative Committee promised they would look into the attack. "In Moscow we express our regrets in connection with the deplorable incident," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
Things were already tense diplomatically between the two countries before this latest attack occurred. Some posit the attack could have been a response to a Russian diplomat being arrested at The Hague in the Netherlands earlier this month, which angered some Russians and led to protests. The Associated Press explains:
The arrest of Russian diplomat Dmitry Borodin in The Hague on Oct. 5 caused outrage in Moscow. Timmerman later apologized to Russia, but he also defended the actions of the police who had arrested Borodin. Police have declined to comment on the incident. Dutch state broadcaster NOS reported that police had traced a car involved in an accident that day to Borodin's home, and neighbors told police they were worried for the safety of the children inside.
This was meant to be a "year of friendship" for Russia and The Netherlands. But things took a turn for the worse after Greenpeace protesters used a Dutch-flagged ship, the Arctic Sunrise, to storm an off-shore drilling platform owned by Russian energy giant. Russia seized the entire ship in response and detained 30 people on piracy charges, which carry sentences between 10 and 30 years in jail. They also now claim drugs were found on the boat.
That fact that "LGBT" was scrawled on the mirror by the diplomat's attackers is another bad sign for Russia's ongoing trouble in the arena of gay rights heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. (The Olympic torch is currently protesting in its own special way.) After Russia effectively banned even the support of homosexuality and threatened to persecute gay athletes and fans, the Olympic committee pressured the country to allow everyone to compete fairly. In a move signalling their disapproval last week, the IOC officially added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy. An amendment to the Olympic charter is expected to come soon.
[Pictured, via AP: A woman walks past the embassy of the Netherlands in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Inset via Lifenews.]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.