Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 1, 2022

Newsline: Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat over alleged espionage

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said on Friday it has declared one Russian diplomat “persona non grata” and given him 72 hours to leave the Balkan country over accusations of spying. The ministry said it was informed by the country’s prosecutors that a diplomat from the Russian embassy had been involved in unregulated intelligence activity. (https://sports.yahoo.com/bulgaria-expels-russian-diplomat-over-184817106.html) Earlier on Friday prosecutors said they were investigating two officials of Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security and a government official for allegedly spying for Russia.

Newsline: Ukrainian Ambassador makes German leaders uncomfortable about relations with Russia

Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk appears to have a split personality. On German TV talk shows, he is composed and soft-spoken as he speaks impeccable German. Patiently, he explains why Ukraine deserves more weapons and why Germany should exert more pressure on Moscow to end its invasion. On Twitter, however, he is far less diplomatic, reacting with wrath anytime he detects German hypocrisy toward Russia, such as when he received an invite to a Ukraine solidarity concert for last Sunday at Bellevue Palace, the residence of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “There are only Russian soloists performing, no Ukrainians,” he tweeted in capital letters. “In the midst of a war against civilians. This is an affront. Sorry, I will stay away!!” (https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-04-01/making-germans-uncomfortable-about-their-relations-with-russia) The office of the president responded by expressing regrets that the ambassador would not attend. That, however, did not soothe Melnyk, 46. The exchange, Melnyk reflects, epitomizes the duality of attitudes that some leading German officials continue to maintain toward Moscow as its troops and missiles pummel Ukraine more than a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked war.

Newsline: Top Russian diplomat praises India

Russia has praised India for not judging the conflict in Ukraine in a “one-sided way” as foreign ministers from both countries met in Delhi. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – who also met Indian’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi – spoke of the “friendship” between the two nations in his statement. “These days our Western colleagues would like to reduce any meaningful international issue to the crisis in Ukraine,” he said. (https://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-russia-praises-india-not-133948120.html) Following the talks India said it favoured peaceful resolutions of conflicts but did not criticise Russia. Mr Lavrov’s Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, “emphasised the importance of cessation of violence and ending hostilities”. “Differences and disputes should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy and by respect for international law, [the] UN Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” India’s foreign ministry said. Russia has justified invading Ukraine as a means to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” its neighbour, an argument widely dismissed by the West as a baseless pretext for invasion. India has not joined the widespread condemnation of Russia’s invasion and is a major buyer of Russian arms. But it faces a diplomatic balancing act, and is under pressure from Western countries to help rein in Russia.

Newsline: Pakistan sent official note to US embassy over alleged interference

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government had on Friday handed an official note to the United States’ mission in Islamabad to protest over what it called Washington’s interference in the country’s affairs. (https://news.yahoo.com/pakistan-pm-says-govt-sent-151322493.html) “We now have given a demarche to (the) American embassy,” Khan told local television channel ARY in an interview, in reference to a diplomatic note over what he described as a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power.

Newsline: Czech Ministry Urges Russian Diplomats to Quit Over Ukraine War

The Czech foreign ministry appealed to Russian diplomats on Friday to resign over their country’s invasion of Ukraine to avoid becoming accomplices in the “apocalyptic destruction” of a sovereign country. “Colleagues, we implore those of you who have a conscience and who maintain the capacity to recognize evil: take yourself out of this circle of accomplices,” the European Union-member country’s foreign ministry said. In a letter posted first on Twitter, and then emailed to Reuters by the ministry’s press department in a response to questions, the ministry urged Russian diplomats to leave a “sinking ship”. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-01/czech-ministry-urges-russian-diplomats-to-quit-over-ukraine-war) There was no immediate reply from the Russian embassy in Prague to a request for comment. Relations between the EU and Russia have hit a historic low in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the largest attack on a European nation since World War Two.

Newsline: Top Chinese Diplomat Says Nobody Can Break Up the G-20 Bloc

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said no one has the power to split up the Group of 20, hitting back at suggestions Russia should be booted for invading Ukraine. Wang stressed in a meeting with Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi that the bloc “should focus on coordination of macroeconomic policies, and that it should not be politicized,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-01/top-chinese-diplomat-says-nobody-can-break-up-the-g-20-bloc) Indonesia holds the G-20’s rotating presidency. The statement added that the pair also discussed the situation in Ukraine at their meeting Thursday in Tunxi, in the eastern province of Anhui, where Wang has been sitting down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other diplomats for talks on issues such as Afghanistan. The U.S. sent a lower level envoy. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for talks over whether Russia should be excluded from the grouping, as part of broader efforts turn President Vladimir Putin into an international pariah for the invasion. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said the U.S. doesn’t “believe it can be business as usual” with Russia and international organizations like the G-20, and that the Biden administration would “consult with our allies and partners around the world” on the issue. While officials haven’t reached any conclusions, it’s likely that U.S. and allied leaders would refuse to attend the Indonesia summit if Putin does, one person familiar with the matter said. The person asked not to be identified because the discussions are preliminary.

Newsline: US State Department won’t acknowledge security aid for Ukraine embassy staff

Employees of the U.S. embassy in Ukraine have claimed that the Biden administration is leaving them behind by not helping them escape to safety, and while the State Department has confirmed they are providing financial help, they have not said that they are actively assisting anyone on the ground. Earlier this month, embassy workers sent a letter to the State Department, reported by Foreign Policy magazine, in which they claimed there had been a “change in tone and open denial of prior promises” regarding financial and safety assistance. “We are exploring all legal options to support our team at this difficult time,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News, noting that the administration has “already taken some important steps.” The spokesperson went on to outline a number of actions the State Department has taken to help, such as paid administrative leave for any staff member unable to work, and “additional financial support to local staff,” such as advance payment of their salaries “to help enable them to move themselves and their families to safety.” (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/state-department-security-aid-ukraine-embassy-staff-families) The State Department did not address the issue of security assistance. Fox News reached out to them regarding whether they have any plans for this, but they did not immediately respond.

Newsline: U.S. Envoy to Moscow Says Russia Ties Sunk to ‘Mariana Trench’ Depths

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made John Sullivan’s tough job as U.S. envoy to Moscow even harder as he grapples with the Kremlin’s nuclear saber-rattling and threats to sever relations while keeping his embassy running on one-tenth the normal staff. “It was really bad two and a half years ago,” Sullivan remembered of his arrival in Jan. 2020. “It’s gotten worse.” Severe staff cuts imposed by Russia’s government have not yet forced him to clean embassy toilets or buff floors, as rumored in Washington, though he said he knows how to do both. Until now, he said, his meetings with Russian foreign ministry officials have “not been personally insulting or hostile,” nor has there been a serious backlash against the embassy. “The security situation here isn’t that much different from what it was a month ago, six months ago,” he said via video call from a spartan office overlooking an embassy courtyard dusted with fresh snow. “But that could change at the discretion of the host government in a minute.” The rivals were engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions and a diplomatic visa feud, with Moscow ordering the closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg in March 2018. The consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg were shut after he arrived, leaving the embassy as the only operating U.S. mission in Russia. But its staff has shrunk from some 1,200 in 2017 to around 130, about half of them Marines and other security guards. Implementing a decree by President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government in May 2021 ordered the embassy to fire scores of Russian employees who performed critical tasks. That forced a halt to the processing of all but “life or death” visas. “We’re in the Mariana Trench as far as diplomatic relations go,” Sullivan said, referring to Earth’s deepest ocean abyss. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-03-31/u-s-envoy-to-moscow-says-russia-ties-sunk-to-mariana-trench-depths) An increase in overnight calls with Washington as tensions mounted over Russia’s military build up prompted Sullivan in February to move out of Spaso House, the elegant ambassadorial residence, a 15-minute drive from the chancery and its secure communications facility. He moved into the more modest Townhouse One, where his deputy lived before being expelled, which is a quick walk to the chancery, the U.S. official said. Sullivan said he takes seriously a threat “from the very top of the Russian government” to sever diplomatic ties, asserting that “The Russians don’t engage in rhetorical flourishes.” “The United States does not want to close its embassy here. President Biden does not want to recall me as ambassador. But that’s not something that we necessarily control,” he said. Russia expelled Sullivan’s deputy in February and recently said another 37 U.S. staffers must leave by July. That would leave the embassy in “caretaker status,” secured by a skeleton contingent, one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. The embassy already has lost its elevator technician, meaning diplomats may soon be doing a lot of stairs, and keeping the sprinkler systems operating will become a serious safety issue if the last two electricians have to leave, the U.S. official said.