Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 14, 2022

Newsline: Candace Owens Doubles Down on Tweet Promoted by Russia’s U.S. Embassy

Conservative commentator Candace Owens is not backing down after one of her tweets criticizing the treatment of Russian citizens received support from the Russian embassy in the United States. Last week, Owens posted on Twitter that she found the treatment Russian citizens in the United States and around the world are receiving is “appalling.” It was a message that was amplified and retweeted by two official Russian embassy accounts. On Monday, Owens said she stood by those words, doubling down on her earlier message. She went on to compare the treatment of Russian citizens abroad to that of Japanese-American citizens during WWII. “That our leaders and government institutions are allowing for—and at times calling for this discrimination following their global ‘black lives matter’ hysteria is quite telling. Russian lives matter.” she wrote in her initial tweet. Soon after Owens posted her thoughts, the official Twitter accounts for the Russian Embassy in the United States and the Russian Embassy in Canada amplified Owens’ message by retweeting it. (https://www.newsweek.com/candace-owens-doubles-down-tweet-promoted-russias-us-embassy-1687718) On Monday, Owens was unapologetic and drew a comparison to how the U.S. put citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps during World War II.

Newsline: Diplomacy Accelerates to Halt Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Negotiators from Russia and Ukraine held further talks today by video link amid cautious hints of progress from both sides even as fighting continued, with officials in Ukraine reporting that overnight shelling killed two people in a residential building in northern Kyiv. In Rome, the U.S. and China began their first high-level, in-person discussions since Moscow’s invasion. Beijing earlier rejected U.S. reports that Russia had sought its military assistance for the invasion of Ukraine as “disinformation.” The Kremlin also denied the claim. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-03-14/russia-invades-ukraine-what-you-need-to-know-03-14-2022) Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today that President Vladimir Putin initially ordered troops to avoid direct attacks on major cities in Ukraine, and he said the military may take full control of the key urban centers that are now surrounded. Ukrainian and Western officials have accused Moscow of targeting civilians and indiscriminately bombarding cities, allegations Russia denies.

Newsline: Chinese foreign ministry accused the US of spreading disinformation

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the US of spreading disinformation. Russia denied asking Beijing for military help. (https://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-crisis-us-says-china-033844106.html) China will face consequences if it helps Russia evade sanctions in its invasion of Ukraine, the US says. Unnamed US officials told multiple news outlets that China had signalled willingness to provide military assistance to Russia. The exchanges came before top US and Chinese officials met in Rome. Media outlets, citing Washington officials, say that Russia has in recent days asked China specifically for military equipment, including drones. The report came as US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, for talks in Rome. “Mr Sullivan raised a range of issues in US-China relations, with substantial discussion of Russia’s war against Ukraine,” a readout of the meeting said. In an earlier CNN interview, Mr Sullivan said the US was “communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them”. In response, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, said the US had “been spreading disinformation targeting China on the Ukraine issue, with malicious intentions”. Asked if he could clarify whether China had received a request for military help from Russia, Mr Zhao said this was “fake news” but did not deny it directly. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US raised concerns with the Chinese delegation “directly and very clearly”. China has so far refrained from condemning Russia for the invasion. When the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Russia’s invasion earlier this month, China was one of 35 countries that abstained.

Newsline: Diplomats Say EU Agrees to Freeze Russian Tycoon’s Assets

Top European Union diplomats have agreed to add Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich to the EU list of Russian billionaires sanctioned after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, two diplomatic sources said on Monday. (https://money.usnews.com/investing/news/articles/2022-03-14/eu-agrees-to-freeze-roman-abramovichs-assets-diplomats) The informal greenlight to Abramovich’s listing came in a meeting on Sunday, one source said, and the EU envoys will reconvene at 1100 GMT on Monday to adopt the measure and a further set of economic sanctions against Russia. Sanctions will be effective only after publication on the EU’s official journal, which usually happens within hours or the day following formal approval. The West has sanctioned Russian billionaires, frozen state assets and cut off much of the Russian corporate sector from the global economy in an attempt to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course on Ukraine. In what would be the fourth package of EU sanctions against Russia since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the 27-nation bloc will ban the export of luxury goods to Russia, including expensive cars. At Sunday’s meeting, diplomats asked the Commission, which drafted the economic sanctions, to explain some aspects of the new economic measures to make sure they cannot be successfully challenged in EU courts, according to two EU sources.

Newsline: Slovakia expels three Russian embassy staff

Slovakia has decided to expel three Russian embassy staff based on information from the secret service and they must leave the country within 72 hours, the foreign ministry said on Monday. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs… at the same time strongly urges the Embassy of the Russian Federation that their representatives perform their activities in line with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” it said in a statement. (https://uk.investing.com/news/world-news/slovakia-expels-three-russian-embassy-staff–foreign-ministry-2604633) The ministry did not give any details. Slovak news website http://www.dennikn.sk said without citing its sources that police arrested at least three Slovaks – a colonel from the Defence Ministry, a member of the Slovak counterintelligence service SIS, and a person related to a news website that the government shut down this month for spreading misinformation – for suspected espionage for Russia. A spokesman for the police declined to comment, saying police representatives would hold a news conference on the matter on Tuesday.

Newsline: Philippines summons Chinese ambassador over navy ship’s ‘intrusion’

The Philippines summoned China’s ambassador on Monday to explain what it called the “illegal intrusion and lingering presence” of a Chinese navy vessel in waters between some of the archipelago nation’s largest islands. (https://www.reuters.com/world/china/philippines-summons-chinese-ambassador-over-navy-ships-intrusion-2022-03-14/) The foreign ministry in a statement said a Chinese navy reconnaissance ship entered Philippine waters without permission and lingered from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, ignoring repeated demands to leave. It was detected off the Cuyo Group of Islands, close to Palawan, and Apo island off Mindoro, a presence the ministry said “did not constitute innocent passage and violated Philippine sovereignty”.

Newsline: EU diplomats agreed to tighten sanctions on Russian oil companies

European Union states are set to adopt new sanctions against Russia’s oil majors Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft, but will continue to buy oil from them, an EU source told Reuters on Monday. (https://www.aol.com/eu-tighten-sanctions-russian-oil-140236899-151358649.html) The three companies are already subject to EU restrictions on loans and debt financing. Under the new package to be discussed later on Monday by EU top diplomats, they will also face an investment ban, which is expected to freeze their funding from sources in the EU in new production and exploration projects in all fossil fuels. But in a sign of EU’s concerns about the impact of sanctions on oil prices and supplies, EU governments insisted on clarifying that the new measures would not prevent EU states and companies from buying oil from the three Russian companies, the source said. That contrasts with action by the United States last week to ban oil imports from Russia, which led to a jump in oil prices. The United States does not import as much gas from Russia as the EU does. Under the new EU sanctions, Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft would be subjected to a “transaction ban,” the official said, which would block investments and other transfers of financial resources to them.

Newsline: Chinese diplomat to meet senior US National Security Adviser amid tensions over Russia

China and the United States announced Sunday that senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan would meet Monday in Rome to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. In separate statements released simultaneously Sunday morning, Washington and Beijing said that Chinese Communist Party Politburo member and Foreign Affairs Commission director Yang would meet Sullivan in Italy on Monday to exchange views on “regional” issues and to keep the lines of communication open. The sides will “discuss the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security”, the US National Security Council said in its slightly more detailed statement, attributed to spokeswoman Emily Horne, while Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cited “international and regional issues of common concern” without mentioning Ukraine by name. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ukraine-war-biden-adviser-jake-093000270.html) This came as Russia said on Sunday it was counting on China to help it withstand the pain of Western sanctions, even as the White House warned Beijing it would face severe “consequences” if it helped Russia evade them.

Newsline: Afghan diplomats under pressure from Taliban regime

Afghan embassies around the world that have refused to recognise the new Taliban regime are struggling to stay afloat and facing increasing pressure from Kabul to accept loyalist replacements. None of the country’s 60 or so ambassadors, consuls or heads of diplomatic missions who were appointed by Western-backed former president Ashraf Ghani have agreed to serve the hardline Islamist group since it seized power in August last year. Across the world, Afghan ambassadors have been forced to dramatically scale down their activities, reduce energy bills and food costs, and even move into smaller premises. They have also increased consular fees to generate revenue. It is not clear how long visas, certificates and other documents issued by the holdout embassies will be recognised — either by the Taliban or the international community. New passports issued in Kabul still refer to the country as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, instead of the Taliban’s preferred “Emirate”, but officials have warned foreign journalists arriving with visas issued independently by the Dubai embassy that they may not be honoured in future. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/afghan-diplomats-under-pressure-from-taliban-regime/ar-AAV14uA) In a handful of countries near Afghanistan, some ambassadors have left their posts or been pushed out by the Taliban, who have inserted their own representatives — but even the replacements face hardship. In Pakistan, salaries have not been paid since September. Employees live on income from visa and passport renewal fees and marriage certificates, said a source at the consulate in Peshawar, near the Afghan border. The new consul general appointed by the Taliban receives just 50,000 rupees ($280) a month compared with the nearly $5,000 his predecessor made, the source added. In Beijing, the ambassador resigned when a senior diplomat loyal to the Taliban was appointed to the embassy, which he is now unofficially leading. The Taliban have managed to impose their men in Uzbekistan and Iran. The Taliban have also sent delegations from Kabul to Oslo and Geneva, bypassing local embassies, for talks with Western powers. The Taliban did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment, but they have previously claimed to largely have control over Afghan embassies. However, they have failed to have one of their top spokesmen, Suhail Shaheen, accredited as ambassador to the United Nations, with the General Assembly indefinitely postponing a vote on the matter.