Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 2, 2022

Newsline: Top US diplomat in Ukraine performing several balancing acts at once

Kristina Kvien has a lot on her hands. She’s the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, or chargé d’affaires. She’s been staying on top of the crisis created by Russia deploying some 130,000 troops near the country. That carries with it the implicit threat of invasion if Moscow doesn’t get its way. “It’s a concerning situation,” she told Fox News, “because we’ve also seen very strong rhetoric from the Russians, and we have also seen their demands.” (https://www.foxnews.com/world/top-us-diplomat-in-ukraine-performing-several-balancing-acts-at-once) In the last few days, she’s been in charge of lowering the U.S. diplomatic profile in Kyiv, arranging for the evacuation of families of embassy workers as well as some non-essential employees. It’s been branded by the Ukrainian government as premature. The acting ambassador stands by it. She also has to straddle a fine line with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. He’s been saying that the U.S. is exaggerating the risk of a Russian invasion. Over the weekend, the White House called for greater clarity from Zelenskyy. Officials said while he’s “talking down” the incursion risk and “talking up” U.S. military aid.

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Newsline: Spain not planning to evacuate diplomatic staff from Ukraine

Spain has no plans to evacuate its embassy staff and their family members from Kyiv, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain, said José Manuel Albares Bueno during a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, according to the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. (https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/3395784-spain-not-planning-to-evacuate-embassy-staff-from-kyiv.html) The conversation took place in the context of consolidating international pressure on the Russian Federation. Kuleba briefed Spain’s minister on the security situation amid the Russian military build-up near the border. José Manuel Albares Bueno assured of Spain’s full support for Ukraine’s efforts to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity by political and diplomatic means.

Newsline: Taiwan embassy staffer in Honduras tests positive for COVID after VP visit

A member of staff at the Taiwanese embassy in Honduras tested positive for COVID-19, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has announced, following a visit to the Central American ally by Vice President Lai Ching-te. In a news release on Tuesday (Feb. 1), MOFA said the embassy employee is resting in home quarantine, and consular services are continuing by appointment only. Individuals with urgent business are welcome to contact the embassy to set up an appointment, MOFA said. (https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4428342) Lai represented President Tsai Ing-wen at the Jan. 27 inauguration of Honduras’ new president, Xiomara Castro. He also met U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

Newsline: Senior Russian diplomat dismisses U.S., British intelligence

A senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday that intelligence and information about Moscow’s military buildup near Ukraine, collected by the United States and Britain, is not credible and the Kremlin has “no trust” in them. Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, made the remarks in an interview with Britain’s Sky News. In his remarks, Polyanskiy said that the troop figures near Ukraine cited in U.S. and British intelligence reports, for one, are incorrect. (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2022/02/02/ukraine-russia-ukraine-invasion-volodymyr-zelensky/5311643805827/) His comments came amid soaring fears in the West about a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those fears have risen over the past few months as Moscow has mobilized tens of thousands of troops near the country’s border with eastern Ukraine. Russia and President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly expressed concern about Ukraine’s designs to join NATO, but have blamed the West, namely the United States, of “provoking” the crisis over the former Soviet republic.

Newsline: Russian ambassador urges Japan to avoid sanctions over Ukraine

Russia’s ambassador to Japan is urging the country’s leaders to reject proposals to sanction Moscow over its dispute with Ukraine, calling the possibility “counterproductive” to Japanese-Russian relations. Sanctions against Russia or the Russian leadership by Japan would “contradict” agreements between the two countries and harm their relationship, Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin told reporters Wednesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “I want to emphasize that we consider the statements from the Japanese government about so-called strong actions against Russia as counterproductive for the atmosphere of Russian-Japanese dialogue,” Galuzin said Wednesday. (https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2022-02-02/russia-japan-sanctions-ukraine-invasion-putin-biden-kishida-4519975.html) Galuzin held a 1 ½ hour news conference to clarify Russia’s stance on the buildup of Russian troops along its shared border with Ukraine. Moscow has steadily massed military forces along the border since December, and the U.S. government now estimates 100,000 Russian troops are flanking the country on its north and west. Galuzin was critical of “strong actions” proposed by the Japanese government, referring to a Jan. 21 virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. Biden and Kishida are “committed to work closely together to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine” and pledged “strong action” against Russia in the event of an attack on Ukraine, according to a readout of the meeting from the White House. A spokesperson from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not immediately available Wednesday for comment.

Newsline: New York Times sues State Department seeking access to U.S. embassy emails

The New York Times has sued the State Department to gain access to U.S. embassy emails mentioning Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, Insider reported Tuesday, citing court filings. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, requests access “to emails sent by officials at the U.S. embassy in Romania between 2015 and 2019 that contain keywords including ‘Hunter Biden,'” Insider writes. Lawyers for the Times claim the State Department is stalling in responding to several Freedom of Information Act requests made by Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel in June. Vogel had also asked for emails mentioning attorney Rudy Giuliani and Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Hunter Biden. One of the goals of the lawsuit seems to be “finding out whether embassy officials did any favors on behalf of private businesses (including, presumably, that of the president’s son) that would raise questions about possible conflicts of interest and corruption,” Politico writes. “As a routine part of their reporting, New York Times journalists regularly seek potentially newsworthy information from a variety of sources, including from the U.S. government through FOIA requests,” a Times spokesperon told Insider regarding the lawsuit. “We’re hopeful the government will promptly release any relevant documents, and as always we are prepared to pursue our request through a lawsuit if necessary.” (https://theweek.com/hunter-biden/1009663/new-york-times-sues-state-department-over-hunter-biden-related-emails) A previous GOP-led investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine found no evidence of wrongdoing by the president’s son, notes Insider.

Newsline: Russian Embassy Delivers Further Blow to Diplomatic Hopes of Solving Ukraine Crisis

Russia’s embassy in Washington has said Moscow will not be swayed by U.S. threats of sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. The mission said on Facebook that “the generator of tension is not Moscow but Washington” and that “we are not going to back away and stand at attention, heeding the threat of U.S. sanctions.” (https://www.newsweek.com/russia-ukraine-joe-biden-sanctions-embassy-1674926) Monday’s statement followed a rancorous exchange between the countries at the United Nations as the prospect of diplomacy easing fears of a Moscow-led invasion of Ukraine seemed further away than ever. Tass said the embassy was irked by a U.S. State Department tweet on Monday, which described as a “fact” the statement that Russia had “invaded Ukraine in 2014 and occupied Crimea” and “massed more than 100,000 troops at the border.” But the Russian embassy reiterated the Kremlin’s position that the events of 2014 followed a “coup” in Kyiv, and that people in Crimea had “voted for reunification with Russia,” although the referendum it referred to was criticized globally as illegitimate.