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Archive for March 1, 2022

Newsline: Russia to retaliate for U.S. expulsion of 12 diplomats at U.N.

Russia said on Tuesday it would retaliate over the U.S. expulsion of 12 of its diplomats at the United Nations for alleged spying. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. action “will not remain without a proper reaction and an answer – not necessarily symmetrical.” (https://www.reuters.com/world/russia-retaliate-us-expulsion-12-diplomats-un-2022-03-01/) The United States said on Monday the expelled diplomats were “intelligence operatives” who had been “engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”

Newsline: Vilnius mayor paints ‘Putin the Hague is waiting for you’ opposite Russian embassy

Kneeling down with a can of white spray paint in his hand the mayor of the Lithuanian capitol Vilnius sprayed “Putin, the Hague is waiting for you” on a road opposite the Russian embassy in the city this week. “Our city is always supportive of art, especially art which sends a message of peace,” said Remigijus Simasius, 48, as he sprayed the giant letters of the 20-meter long slogan, using a long-lasting paint. “The message of peace is that war criminals must end up in Hague, in the criminal court”, he added. (https://news.yahoo.com/vilnius-mayor-paints-putin-hague-184905171.html) In Lithuania, once ruled from Moscow but now part of NATO and the European Union, people have watched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with horror and outrage, taking to the streets to protest in huge numbers. Lithuania said on Monday it will ask the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine which it says were committed by Russia and its ally Belarus.

Newsline: U.S. Says Russian U.N. Diplomats Are Spies and Orders Them Out

The U.S. is expelling a dozen Russian diplomats assigned to the United Nations in New York on allegations that they are intelligence agents, after what people familiar with the matter say was a yearslong debate within the U.S. government about the value of providing them with visas. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-says-russian-u-n-diplomats-are-spies-and-orders-them-out-11646097926) The expulsions come as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a wide-ranging response from Western countries, with economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure and athletic and cultural bans emerging at levels not seen since the Cold War. The Biden administration even announced sanctions personally targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s top diplomat. For several years the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department have argued about whether to grant visas to many Russian diplomats in the U.S., including those stationed at the U.N., people familiar with the matter said.

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Newsline: U.S. set to announce increased staffing at Havana embassy to process visas

The Biden administration is expected to announce as soon as this week a plan to beef up its skeletal staffing in the U.S. embassy in Havana to restore visa processing for Cubans that had been largely suspended in recent years, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters. (https://www.rawstory.com/exclusive-u-s-set-to-announce-increased-staffing-at-havana-embassy-to-process-visas-sources/) The deployment of additional consular officers to Havana, a result of President Joe Biden’s ongoing year-long review of policy on communist-led Cuba, would mark an initial phase of easing strict limits on visas imposed under former President Donald Trump. The State Department under Trump sharply scaled back embassy staff in 2017 following “anomalous health incidents” that came to be known as “Havana syndrome.” The unexplained illnesses first affected employees in the Cuban capital and later cropped up in other parts of the world. The drawdown all but halted visa processing for Cubans who in many cases seek to emigrate or travel to the United States to reunite with families. It coincided with Trump’s rollback of a historic rapprochement that his predecessor, Barack Obama, oversaw between the United States and Cuba.

Newsline: Western envoys, allies walk out on Russian Foreign Minister speech to UN rights forum

More than 100 diplomats from some 40 Western countries and allies including Japan walked out of a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the top U.N. human rights forum on Tuesday in protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The boycott by envoys from the European Union, the United States, Britain and others left only a few diplomats in the room including Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, who is a former deputy to Lavrov. Envoys from Syria, China and Venezuela were among delegations that stayed. Lavrov was addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council remotely, after cancelling his visit due to what the Russian mission said on Monday were EU states blocking his flight path. Neutral Switzerland also imposed financial sanctions on Lavrov on Monday, a measure of the international revulsion over an invasion Russia describes as a “special military operation” aimed at dislodging “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine. (https://news.yahoo.com/eu-us-british-envoys-boycott-104429935.html) In his speech, Lavrov accused the EU of engaging in a “Russophobic frenzy” by supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine during Moscow’s military campaign that began last Thursday.

Newsline: European embassies pressure Pakistan over UN vote on Ukraine war

The ambassadors of European Union nations to Pakistan appealed Tuesday for Islamabad to support an emergency resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine after the country abstained from an earlier vote on the crisis. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is attempting a balancing act in relations with the world’s superpowers — particularly as Islamabad’s value to the United States has slipped following the withdrawal of foreign forces from neighbouring Afghanistan. “We urge Pakistan to join us in condemning Russia’s actions and to voice support for upholding the UN charter and the founding principles of international law,” said a statement signed by the envoys from EU member states, as well as Britain, Canada, Japan, Norway and Switzerland. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/european-embassies-pressure-pakistan-over-un-vote-on-ukraine-war/ar-AAUt3To) Pakistan on Monday abstained from a UN Human Rights Council vote calling for an urgent debate on the war, which was nevertheless pushed through and is due to take place on Thursday.

Newsline: Italy moves its embassy in Ukraine to Lviv

Italy is moving its embassy in Ukraine to the western city of Lviv, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/italy-moves-its-embassy-in-ukraine-to-lviv-because-of-deteriorating-security-918118) The move followed the deteriorating security situation in the capital Kyiv, the statement said.

Newsline: African diplomats scramble to aid citizens in Ukraine after mistreatment claims

Nigeria, South Africa and other African diplomats scrambled on Monday to help their citizens escape the Russian invasion in Ukraine after reports of racist and unfair treatment of Africans at border crossings. Africans in Ukraine, many of them students, are among hundreds of thousands of people trying to flee into Poland and other neighbours. Nigeria on Monday urged border officials in Ukraine and elsewhere to treat its citizens equally. “There have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police and security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards the Ukraine-Poland border,” said presidential advisor Garba Shehu in a statement. Shehu referenced a video on social media where a Nigerian mother with a young baby was filmed being physically forced to give up her seat. He said there are also reports of Polish officials refusing Nigerian citizens entry into Poland from Ukraine. “It is paramount that everyone is treated with dignity and without favour,” said Shehu. A group of South Africans, mostly students, were stuck at the Ukrainian-Polish border, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said on Twitter. The South African ambassador to Warsaw was at the site trying to get them through, according to Monyela who on Sunday had said Africans were being “treated badly” at the Polish-Ukraine border. Poland’s ambassador to Nigeria Joanna Tarnawska dismissed claims of unfair treatment. “Everybody receives equal treatment. I can assure you that I have reports that already some Nigerian nationals have crossed the border into Poland,” she told local media. (https://news.yahoo.com/african-govts-seek-help-nationals-130340593.html) She said Nigerians could stay for 15 days. Even invalid documents were being accepted to cross the border and Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, she added.