Dutch PM withheld information from parliament on talks with Russia: report

THE HAGUE - Prime Minster Mark Rutte incompletely informed parliament about talks that senior Dutch officials had with Russia. Rutte said that these conversations were only a "free exchange of views", but the talks included controversial topics and agreements were made, Follow the Money and The Investigative Desk reported.

The Netherlands officially severed ties with Russia after flight MH17 was shot down in 2014, but communications were picked up again three years later. Senior officials from the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Foreign Affairs resumed talks with their Russian colleagues. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, only found out about this after the two research platforms reported about it earlier in the year.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte then said that there was nothing mysterious or secretive about the talks, submitting documents to show this. According to Rutte, the officials were "just talking with Russia about various energy projects", and the officials were not allowed to make any agreements.

Follow the Money and The Investigative Desk then requested documents from the relevant Ministries about the talks with Russia, appealing to the Government Information (Public Access) Act. According to the research platforms, these documents show that Rutte withheld relevant information from the Kamer. For example, that the officials discussed the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is intended to bring Russian gas to northwestern Europe in the future, and EU sanctions against Russia.

The officials also discussed agreements with their Russian colleagues in the field of energy, according to the platforms. And diaries, emails and memos show that agreements were indeed made at the request of the Netherlands. This was not communicated to the Tweede Kamer.

Opposition parties GroenLinks, PvdA, and SP are furious by this revelation and will request a debate on Wednesday, to take place after the summer recess, they said to NU.nl. They want complete insight into the meetings and the agreements made with Russia. They also want to know whether Rutte deliberately withheld information from the Kamer.

According to NU.nl, coalition parties VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie were unable to respond because the parliamentarians involved are on holiday.

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