Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 6, 2022

Newsline: UK charges guard at Berlin embassy with spying for Russia

A security guard at the British Embassy in Berlin has been extradited from Germany and charged with spying for Russia, U.K. police said Wednesday. The Metropolitan Police force said David Ballantyne Smith, 57, was sent back to Britain on Wednesday. He faces nine charges under the Official Secrets Act related to “the collection and communication of information useful to the Russian state.” (https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/uk-charges-guard-berlin-embassy-spying-russia-83913079) Smith is due to appear in a London court on Thursday. Police said the alleged offenses took place between October 2020 and August 2021, when Smith was arrested by German police at his home in Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. Nick Price, head of special crime and counterterrorism at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, said Smith is accused of “seven offenses of collecting information with the intent of sending it to the Russian authorities, one of attempting communication and one of providing information to a person he believed was a member of the Russian authorities.” During the Cold War, Berlin was often dubbed “the capital of spies” because the city was on the frontlines of the confrontation between the Soviets in the East and the Americans and their western allies in the West.

Newsline: Norway orders expulsion of Russian envoys

On Wednesday, Norway announced the expulsion of three Russian diplomats, saying the individuals conducted activities that were incompatible with their diplomatic status. “It is not by chance that these expulsions take place now,” Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement. “They come at a time when the world is shocked by reports of Russian forces’ crimes against civilians, in particular in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv. In this situation we pay particular attention to unwanted Russian activities in Norway,” she said. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/6/greece-norway-order-expulsion-of-russian-diplomats) Coordinated moves by other countries saw more than 200 envoys and staff sent home in 48 hours earlier this week.

Newsline: Tunisia summons Turkish envoy

Tunisia has summoned Turkey’s ambassador after the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised his counterpart for dissolving Parliament. In a statement released on Tuesday evening, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied told foreign minister Othman Jarandi that he rejected “all interference in any form” in Tunisian affairs, without directly mentioning Erdogan. Saied, who since July has been seizing wide-ranging powers, sacked the assembly last week, eight months after suspending it in a blow against the democratic system born out of the country’s 2011 uprising. On Monday, Erdogan had criticised Saied’s latest move as a “blow to the will of the Tunisian people” and a “smear on democracy”. The Tunisian foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday voicing “surprise” at Erdogan’s comments, which it called “unacceptable interference” in Tunisian domestic affairs. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/6/tunisia-summons-turkish-ambassador-over-interference) On Wednesday morning, the ministry said Jarandi had spoken by telephone with Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and summoned Ankara’s ambassador in protest. Tunisia’s fragmented Parliament has long been dominated by Ennahdha, a party close to Erdogan’s ruling AKP Party and a bitter foe of Saied.

Newsline: Portugal expels 10 Russian embassy employees

Portugal has decided to expel 10 employees of the Russian Embassy in Lisbon. The foreign ministry said in a statement that the employees have been declared “persona non grata,” and must leave the country within two weeks, Xinhua reported citing Portugal’s Lusa News Agency. The Portuguese government notified the Russian ambassador of its decision on Tuesday afternoon. (https://in.investing.com/news/portugal-expels-10-russian-embassy-employees-3151317) Spain too has decided to expel 27 Russian diplomats and embassy staff in the next few days, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Tuesday. Italy’s foreign ministry also announced the expulsion of 30 Russian diplomats on Tuesday for what it called “reasons related to national security.” Similarly, Romania has also decided to expel 10 Russian diplomats.

Newsline: EU Foreign top diplomat wants war in Ukraine to end as soon as possible

The European Union wants the war in Ukraine to end as soon as possible, but how that happens is important too, its chief diplomat said on Wednesday, calling for the bloc to send more arms to Kyiv. “We want it to end as soon as possible, but not in any way,” Josep Borrell told European Parliament. “Because if we’re going to have a destroyed country that has been dismembered territorially and neutralized, with millions of people in exile, and millions of people dead, then no, we don’t want this war to end like this,” he said. “That is why we have to continue arming Ukraine… More weapons, that is what the Ukrainians expect of us.” (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-06/how-war-in-ukraine-ends-matters-says-eu-foreign-policy-chief) Borrell noted that continued EU purchases of Russian oil and gas gave Russia many time more money than the financial aid the bloc has provided to Ukraine.

Newsline: Greece to Ask 12 Russian Diplomats to Leave

Greece will ask 12 Russian diplomats to leave the country in reaction to the war in Ukraine, declaring them “personae non-gratae”, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-06/greece-to-ask-12-russian-diplomats-to-leave-country-foreign-ministry) The Greek foreign ministry’s general secretary has informed the Russian ambassador of the decision. The Russian diplomats were not acting in accordance with international rules, a foreign ministry official said.

Newsline: Hungary’s foreign ministry summons Ukrainian ambassador

Hungary’s foreign ministry has summoned Ukraine’s ambassador over what it called his offensive statements on Hungary’s stance regarding the war, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday. (https://whtc.com/2022/04/06/hungarys-foreign-ministry-summons-ukrainian-ambassador/) “It is time for Ukrainian leaders to stop their insults directed at Hungary and acknowledge the will of the Hungarian people,” Szijjarto said in a statement, referring to a landslide win by the ruling party in Sunday’s elections.

Newsline: Man Dies Crashing Car Into Russian Embassy in Romanian Capital

A driver died ramming his car into the gate of the Russian embassy in Bucharest early on Wednesday, police in the Romanian capital said in a statement. A video recorded before firefighters arrived showed the front of the car in flames as it remained wedged in the gate. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-06/man-dies-crashing-car-into-russian-embassy-in-romanian-capital) It was unclear whether the crash was an accident or deliberate. During recent weeks, several Russian embassies elsewhere in Europe have been targeted by protesters angered by the invasion of Ukraine. Police said they were investigating and did not release the identity of the driver. Romania said on Tuesday it would expel 10 Russian diplomats who are not acting in accordance with international rules, joining other European countries to have done so in recent days.