In case you hadn’t noticed, relations between Russia and the Netherlands are weird at the moment.
Take, for example, the news that came out of Russian media portal RBC today: Russia is reportedly planning to ban the Dutchest of Dutch imports — the tulips.
According to the report, the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance has not been satisfied with the tulips.
“We have a lot of questions about the control control Dutch products,” department spokesperson Alexey Alekseyenko explained. The department had earlier raised questions about the quality of Dutch milk.
Even without knowing much about tulip quality, anyone who has been following world politics recently will recognise there may be something bigger at work here.
Things have been tense between Holland and Russia since last month, when Russia seized a ship carrying a number of Greenpeace activists as it neared the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, an offshore Arctic Gazprom drilling platform. 30 people of 18 different nationalities have since been charged with “piracy as part of an organised group,” the Guardian reports, and if convicted, they face 10 to 15 years in prison.
The Greenpeace ship was registered in the Netherlands and two Dutch citizens were on board. The Netherlands have taken a proactive role in the situation, launching a legal challenge to Russian authorities over the detention of the ship and its passengers.
The situation has been complicated by the alleged beating this weekend of a Russian diplomat who was living in the Hague. According to Dutch media, police had arrived at the home of Dmitry Borodin, number two at the Russian embassy, after complaints from neighbours about the way that he was treating his children.
At this point, things get murky. Russia claims that the men did not identify themselves and badly beat Borodin in front of his children. He was then reportedly taken to a police station in a violation of diplomatic rules established under the Vienna Convention. While the Dutch denied any serious assault on Borodin, Putin personally demanded an apology.
Tulips are, however, very important to the Dutch: One figure says that they export around 2 billion tulips every year. Not long after the news about the proposed ban on Dutch tulips in Russia, the Netherlands acquiesced, and the Dutch Foreign Ministry acknowledged that Borodin’s diplomatic status has been ignored when he was arrested. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on what happens next between the two countries.