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Russian Bear Looms Over Dutch Voting Booth

When the Netherlands introduced a new referendum law in July 2015, few approaching it could one day play into the hands of the Kremlin. Or that it would be used to force a national opinion on the some-more than 320-page-long European organisation agreement with Ukraine.

Yet reduction than a year later, on April 6, the Dutch will have to answer with a Yes or No the question of whether they favor the bloc’s organisation understanding with Kiev. Recent opinion polls advise it will be a neck-and-neck competition between the two sides.

Although the vote is advisory and has no approach change on EU policy, it has caused a scare in The Hague and Brussels. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that a Dutch No opinion will “open the door to a vast continental crisis” with usually one winner. “Russia would bravery the fruits of an easy victory,” he told the Dutch NRC newspaper.

A Revolutionary Text

The dull denunciation of the prolonged content of the organisation agreement belies a bomb potential. For years, it has been the source of a tug-of-war with Moscow as Kiev attempted to move out of its former Soviet ruler’s circuit into the arms of the EU.

In late 2013, when former Ukrainian boss Viktor Yanukovych backtracked from signing the deal underneath vigour from Moscow, the document sparked a revolution. Following military repression, a handful of protestors on Kiev’s Maidan Square became hundreds of thousands. Yanukovych was defeated and his inheritor Petro Poroshenko fast put his signature underneath the agreement, finale the negotiation saga — yet dispute between Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and the new Kiev supervision continues to this day.

In autumn final year, the agreement resurfaced in The Hague when a Eurosceptic citizen’s height collected some-more than 420,000 votes in support of a referendum on the issue, creation use of a new law. The campaigners argued in a video that Brussels had undemocratically committed Europe to closer ties with “a geopolitical hornet’s nest” and warned of a reconstruction of the Cold War  country still entrance to terms with the downing of MH17 newcomer craft over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Two-thirds of a victims were Dutch.


The choice of the EU organisation agreement as a topic for the Netherlands’ initial bottom-up referendum held most of the nation by surprise.

“This is not the EU’s initial organisation agreement,” says Kees Verhoeven, a Dutch politician and one of the executive total in the Yes campaign. “But Putin is now perplexing to derail this routine at the eleventh hour.”

Verhoeven’s suspicions increasing after a British media news cited the Dutch referendum in an essay about surreptitious Russian appropriation of European anti-establishment parties.

Russia has a history of lending financial support to fringe far-right parties such as France’s Front National. But the Dutch Foreign Ministry pronounced in a matter there was no reason to believe Russia had been directly concerned in the lead-up to the referendum, aside from “the constructional participation of Russian comprehension and security services in the Netherlands.”

“The fact that some of the No campaigners are echoing Moscow’s promotion does not meant they are being upheld by Russia,” says Tony outpost der Togt, researcher at the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch consider tank. “There are adequate ‘useful idiots’ who in all probity share the same views.”

Political scientist Martin Rosema, who has finished investigate into the psychology of  Dutch voters, says that in reality the No stay is reduction encouraged by Moscow than by antagonism toward Brussels and fears over disharmony in Ukraine. He says any tongue on Russia is expected to be “a rationalisation of previous preferences.”

“Ukraine is seen as a country that differs from the European Union in terms of democracy and rule of law. [The No electorate think] the Ukrainians should figure that out by themselves first,” he says.

Thierry Baudet, one of the referendum’s organizers and a executive figure in the No discuss confirms that view. “I’m no ‘Putin-boy.’ […] I’m creation my own, unconstrained choice. Is the association understanding profitable to Ukraine or to the Netherlands?” he told NRC. “The answer is ‘No.'”


Even though the Kremlin’s approach involvement, a ghost looms vast over the vote.

Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, has pronounced the referendum has done the Dutch, presumably unwittingly,  Putin’s pawns and “hostages in a domestic game.” During a recent revisit to the Netherlands, Vladimir Klitschko, the brother of Kiev’s mayor and a executive figure in the Maidan protests, urged the Dutch not to turn their backs on those who had “given their lives” for Maidan.

Back in the Netherlands, a media discuss that never strays too distant from Moscow is reaching a peak. A local association named Rasputin spent tens of thousands of euros producing toilet paper printed with arguments opposite the EU deal. On the other side of the divide, the youth bend of a Dutch revolutionary celebration printed posters of Putin intent in a lick with Geert Wilders — the leader of the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration Party for Freedom. Wilders struck behind by labeling the activists “young Stalinists.”

Some critics have also forked to what they see as classical Russian misinformation strategy to influence the outcome of the referendum.

Earlier this year, a YouTube video flush that reportedly showed members of the far-right paramilitary Ukrainian Azov corps melancholy the Dutch with a terrorist conflict if they voted No. Another video fast followed, this time by the “real” Azov group, disapproval the video as a fake.

And this week, Ukraine’s U.S.-born Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko on her Twitter comment common a copy of a feign minute she had presumably created to top U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland. The letter, that was present widely on Russian Internet forums, asked the United States to delay the Dutch referendum.

Russian Foreign Ministry mouthpiece Maria Zakharova has discharged suspicions of Russian impasse as “total paranoia.” But she has been discerning to point out the Dutch referendum’s ostensible flaws in sequence to undermine the West’s critique of another renouned vote — one staged by Russia in March 2014.

“The approach in which The Netherlands is ‘properly preparing’ the referendum is meant to serve as an example of how the referendum should have been staged in Crimea,” she pronounced in a Feb matter on the ministry’s website. “So: shortening the number of polling stations, large appropriation of those ancillary the authorities’ indicate of view. The way this is being carried out is lifting vast questions,” she said.


The virulent media campaigns on all sides of the discuss have had an effect. A study published by the Dutch polling organisation IO Research in March showed that some-more than half of those formulation to vote in favor of the EU understanding suspicion that a majority No opinion would be a victory for Putin. In turn, roughly half of the No voters, 44 percent, suspicion a Yes opinion would alienate the Netherlands’ family with Russia.

“The picture of Ukraine sketched by Putin is a twisted chronicle of reality, though a large organisation of Dutch people see it as true,” says Dutch politician Verhoeven.

“In that sense, the Kremlin has already reached a goal. Russia’s spin-doctors can watch the referendum play out from their armchairs.”

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/564068.html