Two Russian spies have been expelled from The Netherlands, the New York Times has reported. Accused of plotting to sabotage the cybersecurity of a Swiss defense laboratory that was analyzing the nerve agent Novichok. Believed to have been used in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, Novichok is a deadly agent that dates back to the Soviet Union. Its use in today’s world is frightening and has led to feelings of dread and uncertainty. In the international community, many are speculating that the Kremlin is attempting to undermine other countries. These latest reports add to this theory, with the Sydney Morning Herald describing Russia’s reaction as ‘seeming to delight’ in its troll-like actions.
First reported by the NRC, a Dutch newspaper, this increases the spotlight on Russia. Early on this week, the duo accused of the poisoning was interviewed in Russia. Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov appeared on national television and denied involvement stating they were not spies, but sports nutritionists. The interviewer, instead of inquiring further about the poisoning, instead asked questions about their sexuality. Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the BBC, have described the pair as ‘civilians’ and aren’t criminals. The men have not been arrested and the United Kingdom does not have an extradition agreement with the Russian Federation. Russia’s response has been unhelpful, sarcastic and verging on trolling.
This is not the first time Russia has believed to have been involved in a poisoning in the United Kingdom. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer, died after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison. An inquiry reached the conclusion that he probably perished with the approval of Vladimir Putin. Although forgotten by many, this incident should be remembered.
However, Putin’s popularity and admiration in Russia has soared. He won the recent election with ease, and his recent actions in Syria rarely attract the condemnation they deserve. Instead, the world seems weirdly accepting of Putin’s antics, and have embraced Russia’s trolling as something the world just has to put up with.
This is deadly for those hurt by Moscow’s actions. Spying, cybercrime, and warfare are not victimless crimes. They affect millions of people, all around the world. One would hope Putin would steer Russia in a more responsible direction, but that is yet to be seen. Tragedies such as Dawn Sturgess’s death (who died after interacting with Novichok) will occur again. The United Kingdom, as well as other countries such as Canada, France, and Germany, are correct in calling out Russia’s behaviour. Yet they will continue to be primed to attack unless further action is taken.