December 21, 2016 / 3:11 PM / in 10 months

Russia criticizes Dutch over U.S. tanks, Crimean treasure

Spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova gestures as she attends a news briefing in Moscow, Russia, October 6, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters), - Russia criticized the Netherlands on Wednesday for allowing the United States to begin stocking tanks there, and for a court ruling that ordered Crimean treasures on loan to a Dutch museum to be returned to Ukraine rather than Russia.

“It looks like the Dutch authorities have started to get a taste for deliberately destroying relations with Russia,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders called the comments “hard to understand” and said of the arrival of U.S. tanks which began last week: “It is not an aggressive but a defensive act,” according to news agency ANP.

Zakharova said the court order that Crimean gold artefacts should be sent to Ukraine instead of Russia - which annexed the territory in 2014 - was unjust and would end the ambitions of The Hague, home to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, to become the world’s legal capital.

Russia is appealing the ruling.

Relations between Russia and the Netherlands have been strained since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 with 198 Dutch passengers among the dead. International investigators believe it was downed by Russian-backed separatists who mistook it for a military aircraft.

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Robin Pomeroy

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