Two Russian spies were expelled from the Netherlands in light of new intelligence reports, according to the BBC.
The two Russians in question were arrested in the Netherlands several months ago, after spying on a Swiss laboratory which has had a long history of investigating the use of chemical weapons.
Chemical weapon usage — particularly by Russia and Russian proxies — has gained increased notoriety in recent months after the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom. Russia has been accused of the poisoning of Skripal, who originally worked for Russian intelligence services.
The lab in question — Labor Spiez — has investigated samples of the Novichok nerve agents implemented in the Skripal poisoning. This fact presents a strong motive suggesting that this investigation was most likely the reason for the pair spying on said lab. Other notable studies being conducted by the facility concern continuing research into some of the substances that have been used in the Syrian war.
Not long after their arrest, the two spies were expelled from the Netherlands and sent back to Russia. This was all done without any formal announcements from Dutch or Swiss officials — meaning that the news of their arrest has only recently come to light.
Since reporting in Switzerland and the Netherlands has revealed the arrests the Swiss intelligence agency has confirmed that they did occur and the men were expelled from the Netherlands.
Switzerland foils Russian spies plot on chemicals lab https://t.co/PlRG47PW99
— Financial Times (@FT) September 14, 2018
Media reports from the two countries contend that the pair of arrested men worked for Russian Intelligence, and that they were found in possession of computer equipment designed to defeat the security of the lab. Any potential break-in may have tainted any findings the lab had made while conducting the Skripal investigation — allowing Russian authorities to cast doubt on the conclusions.
The two spies arrested and expelled from the Netherlands are not the same two men that British intelligence services have named as suspects in the Skripal poisoning. Russia rejects the allegations by Britain, with Vladimir Putin saying that the two men are just ordinary citizens, according to the BBC.
While the timing of the arrests and subsequent expulsions has not been revealed in further detail, the Swiss intelligence service revealed that British intelligence had been helping with the investigation, which suggests that the arrests happened after the Skripal poisoning.
As is common for the Russian government in such matters, Russia has denied that its intelligence service was involved in any spying activity surrounding the lab — and has condemned the reporting released today as false.