A senior politician from the Dutch political party CDA was monitored by the civilian intelligence service, AIVD, because of questionable contacts the politician had with a Russian spy and others with close ties to President Vladimir Putin, the Volkskrant reported on Sunday. René van der Linden sat in the Tweede Kamer for nearly 20 years, served as the State Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and was a senator for 16 years, including from 2009-2011 when he was the Senate chair.
The CDA politician was also the president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly from 2005-2008 while he was a senator, and began keeping contact with Valeri Levitski, an accused Russian spy who was expelled from France in April 2018 for ties to the Russian security service GRU. Levitski also opened communication between Van der Linden and two Russian politicians, Leonid Slutsky, the head of Russian nationalist party LDPR, and Konstantin Kosachev, a senator from Putin’s United Russia party who now chairs the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Even after Levitski was forced out of France, Van der Linden maintained contact with him for another 15 months. During the decade that they maintained dialogue, Van der Linden raised red flags with the AIVD and Dutch politicians alike. In documents previously released in September, Levitski asserted to Moscow that he was able to hold sway over Van der Linden and SP politician Tiny Kox, the latter being the current President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Kox vehemently denied the accusation.
What is clear is that Van der Linden received Kosachev at his home, and spent time with Slutsky as part of a delegation that visited Moscow, the Volkskrant said. He frequently traveled to Moscow to participate in conferences, with transportation and hotels paid for by Russia.
Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, after years of faltering relations between the Netherlands and Russia, the West imposed a series of strict sanctions against Russian leaders. He again traveled to Moscow that June as a guest, and was pictured with Sergei Naryshkin, who now leads Russia’s foreign intelligence service. Van der Linden often spoke out against those sanctions, saying they stood in the way of rebuilding relations with the country. [Continue reading…]