Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 12, 2022

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Moscow Warns of Limited Cash Withdrawals

The Central Bank of Russia announced that owners of foreign currency accounts, including those in U.S. dollars, will be allowed to withdraw no more than a cumulative $10,000 in the foreign currency during a six-month period from March 9 until September 9, 2022. While the new regulations are in place, banks will not sell foreign currency to the public. (https://ru.usembassy.gov/security-alert-u-s-embassy-moscow-russia-limitation-on-withdrawals-from-personal-bank-accounts/) The Department of State’s Travel Advisory level for Russia is at “Level 4: Do Not Travel” due to the potential for harassment and detention of U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, limited flights into and out of Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law. U.S. citizens should depart Russia immediately.

Newsline: Vatican protests over expulsion of its ambassador to Nicaragua

The Vatican on Saturday protested to Nicaragua over the effective expulsion of its ambassador to Managua. (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/vatican-protests-over-expulsion-its-ambassador-nicaragua-2022-03-12/) The Vatican said the unilateral action was unjustified and incomprehensible.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Russia denied consular access to detained basketball star

A Texas lawmaker is “extremely” concerned that WNBA star Brittney Griner has been held in Russia for three weeks “without official government access to her.” Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) spoke with CNN after it was revealed that the basketball star was arrested with cannabis vape cartridges in Russia and is currently being detained. Griner is from Texas, and Allred is a former athlete who, like Griner, played with Baylor University, The Washington Post notes. He says he’s been working with the State Department to get her released. “For Brittney’s sake, we don’t want her to become a part of this kind of political battle that’s going on, and we want to make sure that her rights are respected and that we are able to get access to her, and that she can get through the process and get home as quickly as possible,” Allred told CNN. (https://news.yahoo.com/u-embassy-denied-consular-access-161326718.html) Allred also told CNN “we do know that she’s okay” because her Russian lawyer has been in contact with her agent and family, but he said the U.S. Embassy requested consular access and has been denied.

Newsline: Pakistan apologized for breaking into the North Korean Embassy

Pakistan has apologized to North Korea for raiding the North Korean Embassy in a bizarre diplomatic row involving rogue cops and allegedly illicit booze. The Pakistani foreign office said it was a violation of diplomatic protocol and vowed not to repeat it. (https://www.vice.com/en/article/dypkna/north-korea-pakistani-police-raided-its-embassy-over-bootlegging-suspicions) The embassy accused Islamabad police of breaking into its premises and threatening intervening diplomatic staff with guns. Local media reported that police in the Pakistani capital acted on a tip that the mission was keeping a “huge quantity of liquor.” Alcohol is off-limits to Pakistan’s Muslim population but diplomats are allowed to buy it in certain amounts. The allegation of North Korean stockpiling of booze echoes earlier suspicions that some diplomats were secretly selling alcohol in the lucrative black market to funnel funds to cash-strapped Pyongyang, after a 2017 robbery accidentally revealed that a North Korean diplomat in Islamabad held thousands of bottles of whisky, beer and French wine. In a letter protesting the raid, the North Korean mission said seven police officers entered the embassy through a back gate without its consent to search a storeroom in the backyard. The officers threatened diplomatic staff with guns when they tried to stop the search, the letter said. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid apologised for the incident and called it a “misunderstanding.”

Newsline: Afghan Embassy in the U.S. Out of Money and Will Shut Down

Without the backing of a recognized government or money to keep the lights on, Afghanistan’s embassy to the United States is shutting down, State Department officials said on Friday. Afghan diplomats, who were appointed by the former U.S.-backed government and could be under threat by the ruling Taliban if they return home, have 30 days to apply for residency or temporary humanitarian parole to remain in the United States before they risk being deported, the officials said. Although they would not be sent back to Afghanistan, it is not clear where else the diplomats would go, said the officials, who openly hoped the situation would not reach that point. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/us/politics/afghan-embassy-closing.html) Around 25 diplomats — about one-fourth of the estimated 100 who worked at the Afghan Embassy in Washington or the country’s consulates in New York and Los Angeles — have yet to apply to remain, said two State Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue more frankly. Two months later, Citibank froze the embassy’s bank accounts to avoid violating American sanctions against the Taliban. The economic penalties were imposed years ago, when the Taliban were designated a global terrorist organization. Now that it runs the Afghan government, the Taliban in theory control the country’s central bank, prompting Citibank to seize what one Afghan envoy had described as several hundred thousand dollars in the embassy’s account. That has meant that at least several dozen Afghan diplomats have not been paid since October, and have been living on savings or forced to borrow money to stay afloat. In some cases, envoys have moved their families into cheaper homes to make ends meet. For now, the State Department will oversee the maintenance and security of three properties the Afghan government owns in the United States: a stately Colonial Revival embassy building in Washington, a consulate in Los Angeles and the Long Island residence of the consul general in New York.