Russia expels Dutch newspaper reporter, cites violations

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch newspaper reporter has been expelled from Russia, a move denounced Thursday as “unacceptable” by the Netherlands’ foreign ministry.

The De Volkskrant newspaper reported Thursday that its Moscow correspondent, Tom Vennink, was ordered to leave Russia earlier this week after his residency permit was withdrawn over what authorities described as “administrative violations.”

Vennink is not the first reporter thrown out of Russia this year. In August, Russia refused to renew the visa of Sarah Rainsford, a longtime reporter for the BBC in Moscow. The U.K.’s Foreign Ministry said the action was retaliation for the British government’s refusal to extend a visa to a Russian news agency correspondent.

Independent Russian media also are under increasing pressure. The government added several prominent news outlets, including the Dozhd television station and the online news site Meduza, to its list of foreign agents this year.

The designation, which media organizations see as an attempt to undermine an outlet’s credibility. requires listees to preface their stories with a statement that the report comes from an organization that is considered a foreign agent.

Relations between the Netherlands and Russia plunged into a deep freeze following the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board, many of them Dutch citizens, died. The Netherlands has held Russia liable for the downing of the aircraft, a charge Moscow denies.

But Volkskrant Editor-in-Chief Pieter Klok said in the newspaper’s story about Vennink’s expulsion, “It is a mystery to us why the Russian government has chosen to do this now.”

Volkskrant reported that Vennink had to pay a fine in November 2019 for not registering his Moscow address with local authorities on time and that he paid another fine in January 2020 for visiting a province in northern Russia without seeking permission from the governor.

“In previous years, such administrative violations were never an obstacle to extending the residency permit,” Klok said.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “deplored” the decision not to extend Vennink’s visa and was seeking clarification from Russian authorities.

“For the Netherlands, it is unacceptable that a journalist has to leave a country against his or her own will,” the ministry said in a statement. “Press freedom is a fundamental public good, and we are dedicated to ensuring that journalists can continue to do their job.”

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Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed.

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