Netherlands

How a Group of Russians Tilted a Dutch Vote

The New York Times published a fascinating article yesterday that described how a group of Russians helped influence the recent Dutch vote on a trade deal between the European Union and the Ukraine.

Harry van Bommel, a left-wing member of the Dutch Parliament, had persuasive allies in convincing voters that they should reject a trade pact with Ukraine — his special “Ukrainian team,” a gleefully contrarian group of émigrés whose sympathies lay with Russia.

bommel

Harry van Bommel, a left-wing member of Parliament, in his office in the Hague.  He used a “Ukrainian team” that actually included Russians in an effort to influence a Dutch referendum last year on a trade agreement with Ukraine.  (Photo by Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

They attended public meetings, appeared on television and used social media to denounce Ukraine’s pro-Western government as a bloodthirsty kleptocracy, unworthy of Dutch support. As Mr. Van Bommel recalled, it “was very handy to show that not all Ukrainians were in favor.”

Handy but also misleading: The most active members of the Ukrainian team were actually from Russia, or from Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, and parroted the Kremlin line.

The Dutch referendum, held last April, became a battering ram aimed at the European Union. With turnout low, Dutch voters rejected the trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, delighting Moscow, emboldening pro-Russia populists around Europe and leaving political elites aghast.

Categories: Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine

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