Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 24, 2022

Newsline: Global Diplomacy in Brussels

After a day of intense global diplomacy in Brussels, President Biden said Russia should be removed from the Group of 20 nations. If the other member countries do not agree to the expulsion, he said, then Ukraine should be allowed to participate. Between back-to-back summits with NATO, the Group of 7 and the European Union, Biden also pledged to take in 100,000 refugees from Ukraine and donate $1 billion to help European nations handle the surge of displaced Ukrainians. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/24/briefing/your-friday-briefing-global-diplomacy-in-brussels.html) More than three million people have left Ukraine, and a U.N. agency estimates that the war has driven more than half the country’s children from their homes.

Newsline: Russia vows harsh response to Poland’s expulsion of diplomats

Russian officials vowed a hurtful response after Poland decided to expel 45 diplomats from the country, Reuters reported. Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday called Poland’s move “a conscious step towards the final destruction of bilateral relations, the dismantling of which our Polish ‘partners’ have been systematically carrying out for a long time.” “Russia will not leave this hostile attack without a response, which will make Polish provocateurs think and will hurt them,” Russia’s foreign ministry added, according to the wire service. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-vows-harsh-response-polands-175106802.html) Poland announced on Wednesday that it has expelled Russian diplomats from the country on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence, Reuters reported. Russia’s ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev said the country also blocked the embassy’s bank accounts because they could be used for money-laundering or terrorist finance, according to Reuters.

Newsline: Blinken to Discuss Israel’s Role as Mediator Between Russia, Ukraine

The top U.S. diplomat for Near Eastern affairs on Thursday said that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss Israel’s role as mediator between Russia and Ukraine during his visit over the weekend. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-03-24/blinken-to-discuss-israels-role-as-mediator-between-russia-ukraine-in-visit) Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, speaking to reporters, warned that Russia’s conflict in Ukraine will only continue to increase the price of basic staples in the Middle East and North Africa region as wheat prices rise.

Newsline: FBI trolls Russian embassy in Washington with geotargeted ads for disgruntled spies

The FBI’s latest counterintelligence operation against Russia is hardly secretive—you just have to be standing in the right place. In the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the FBI has stepped up its recruiting efforts in the US, hoping to attract Russians who are dissatisfied or disillusioned with the war. People standing in close proximity to the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, can see the ads, which appear in Russian, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The Facebook ad that appears at the Russian Embassy shows Sergey Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, standing uncomfortably at a lectern alongside a stern-looking Putin. The text over the image quotes Putin, saying, “Speak plainly, Sergey Yevgenyevich.” The ad recalls a series of tense moments from one of Putin’s televised meetings in the build-up to the war, during which he repeatedly interrupted Naryshkin and pressed him to “speak plainly” when the spy chief stumbled over his words. At the bottom of the image, the FBI wrote, “Speak plainly… we are ready to listen.” (https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2022/03/fbi-trolls-russian-embassy-with-geotargeted-ads-for-disgruntled-spies/) Many advertising platforms allow advertisers to target ads based on location.

Newsline: Britain Calls Out Russia’s Top Diplomat for Secret Family

Britain’s latest round of sanctions against Russia has gone above and beyond simple financial punishment, airing a bit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s dirty laundry in the process. In its list of the 65 new individuals and organizations targeted for “aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the British Foreign Office appears to have made a point to call out Lavrov’s “secret family” in London, with its inclusion of Polina Kovalev, whom it describes as his stepdaughter. Kovalev’s inclusion on the list appears to confirm exhaustive reporting by Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny’s team that Lavrov, 71, has been living a “double life” for nearly two decades. One that includes a “secret wife,” identified by Navalny’s allies as Svetlana Polyakova, an actress and a restaurateur with sway in Russia’s Foreign Ministry. (https://news.yahoo.com/britain-calls-russia-top-diplomat-103815930.html) Polina Kovaleva is reportedly Polyakova’s daughter from an earlier marriage. She is said to reside in a lavish Kensington apartment she purchased for £4.4 million ($5.8 million) at the age of 21. British lawmakers had pushed for her to be added to the list of targeted individuals this month, arguing that she could be used to evade sanctions. Lavrov himself is already blacklisted by both the U.S. and U.K.

Newsline: Bulgaria to Recall Its Ambassador to Russia

Bulgaria will recall its ambassador to Russia for consultations in response to “undiplomatic, sharp and rude” comments from the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Thursday. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-03-24/bulgaria-to-recall-its-ambassador-to-russia-for-consultations) Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova told a Russian TV channel this week that the Bulgarian people did not support the government’s rhetoric and position towards what Russia calls its special operation in Ukraine. “We will call back our ambassador from Russia for consultations … Usually when one country calls back its ambassador for consultations, the other should follow and do the same,” Petkov told reporters in Brussels. “I do not think there is a Bulgarian citizen who can be happy to see a foreign diplomat offending the Bulgarians and the Bulgarian government … We are a country that respects its institutions and such behaviour is unacceptable.” Bulgaria, Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War but now a member of the European Union and NATO, has condemned Russia’s invasion of its neighbour a month ago.

Newsline: Russian ambassador says Poland has blocked embassy’s bank accounts

Russia’s ambassador to Warsaw said on Thursday that Poland had blocked the embassy’s bank accounts for allegedly financing “terrorist activity”, RIA news agency reported. (https://news.yahoo.com/russian-ambassador-says-poland-blocked-093733519.html) Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.

Newsline: Russian deputy UN ambassador says Moscow retains right to use nuclear weapons if ‘provoked’ by NATO

Amid the war with Ukraine, Russian deputy ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy said Moscow retains the right to use nuclear weapons if ‘provoked’ by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/retain-right-to-use-nuclear-weapons-if-provoked-by-nato-says-russia/ar-AAVqLkg) This comes after Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN International that Russia would only use nuclear weapons in the context of the Ukraine conflict if it were facing an ‘existential threat’. Days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Putin announced on February 28 that he had put the country’s strategic nuclear forces on high alert in a move that sparked global alarm.

Newsline: Russian Embassy in Greece Says Bank Accounts of Citizens Frozen

The Russian Embassy in Greece said it was “concerned” about reports it had received from Russian citizens in the country who said that their bank accounts have been frozen, “without any warning or written notification.” “In some cases, families of Russian citizens are deprived of their only source of income,” the embassy said. (https://greekreporter.com/2022/03/23/russia-greece-bank-accounts-frozen/) Greece began freezing assets of Russian citizens named on an international list for sanctions sent to all European Union countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in mid-March.