Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 21, 2022

Newsline: Russia’s foreign ministry announces new anti-US sanctions

Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Thursday it would be barring a number of top Biden officials and others from entering Russia, including Vice President Harris, White House chief of staff Ron Klain and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “In response to the ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions, under which the Biden Administration brings an increasing number of Russian citizens – both officials and their families, as well as representatives of business circles, scientists and cultural figures – 29 Americans are included in the ‘stop list’ from among the top leaders, businessmen, experts and journalists who form the Russophobic agenda, as well as the spouse of a number of high-ranking officials,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-latest-round-sanctions-targets-200953639.html) The individuals barred from entering Russia in the country’s latest round of sanctions also include Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, State Department spokesman Ned Price, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Evan Maureen Ryan, White House cabinet secretary and wife of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, among others. Russia’s latest announcement further exacerbates the fragile diplomatic state of affairs between the country and much of the rest of the world amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The foreign ministry last week announced that it was sanctioning 398 members of Congress in response to similar sanctions levied against more than 300 lawmakers. It has also been engaged in a diplomatic expulsion tit-for-tat with a number of European Union member states, with those countries and Russia announcing the expulsion of one another’s diplomats.

Newsline: Russian ambassador announces donation of 20,000 tonnes of wheat to Cuba

Russia on Thursday donated nearly 20,000 tonnes of wheat to political ally Cuba, a welcome gift to the Caribbean island nation beginning to feel the pain of soaring global prices for grains following the war in Ukraine. Russian ambassador to Cuba Andrei Guskov said at a ceremony that his country’s government had agreed last year to send the grains to Cuba. But the ship transporting the wheat, Guskov said, was stalled off the island for a month by Western sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Banking-related restrictions had complicated Russia’s payments to the shipper, he said, making it impossible for the boat to offload and “convert the wheat to bread for Cubans.” “What happened clearly shows that the unilateral, coercive measures adopted against Russia, like those applied against Cuba, harm the lives of ordinary people,” Guskov told reporters. (https://www.ibtimes.com/russia-donates-wheat-ally-cuba-grains-prices-soar-globally-3480507) The substantial donation of wheat – used to make the bread that is a basic, government-subsidized staple in Cuba – is the latest in a series of overtures between the communist-run government and Russia. Cuba on April 7 joined China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam in voting against a resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly that suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over its reported rights abuses in Ukraine.

Newsline: Russian diplomats depart at Japanese government’s request

Diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Tokyo were among eight Russian nationals who flew out of Haneda Airport on Wednesday, following Japan’s request that they leave the country, the Foreign Ministry said. (https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2022-04-21/russian-diplomats-depart-at-japanese-government-request-5757813.html) According to the ministry, the eight comprised diplomats at the embassy and staff members at the office of the Russian trade representative in Japan. Among them were intelligence officers belonging to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU), and the Russian foreign intelligence service known as the SVR. The Foreign Ministry requested that these eight people leave the country. They left the country by the deadline that the Japanese government had requested. It is unusual for Japan to demand that multiple staff members leave the country at once, as asking a diplomat to depart a country constitutes a strong protest to the relevant government. According to the Foreign Ministry, the last such request was made in May 2012 to the then Syrian ambassador to Japan.

Newsline: U.S. embassy did not comment on U.S. citizen’s death sentence in China

U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment after a Chinese court on Thursday sentenced U.S. citizen Shadeed Abdulmateen to death for intentional homicide of a 21-year-old woman, his former girlfriend, state broadcaster CCTV reported. In its verdict the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in Zhejiang Province, found that after a disagreement over the pair’s break-up in June 2019 the defendant arranged to meet and talk with the victim, a Chinese citizen surnamed Chen, at a bus top in Ningbo before going on to kill her with a “folding knife”. (https://news.yahoo.com/chinese-court-sentences-u-citizen-101726867.html) The court held that the defendant’s “premeditated revenge killing, stabbing and cutting Chen’s face and neck several times, resulting in Chen’s death, was motivated by vile motives, resolute intent and cruel means, and the circumstances of the crime were particularly bad and the consequences particularly serious, and should be punished according to law,” CCTV reported.

Newsline: G20 walkout ushers in new era of financial diplomacy

Meetings of global finance ministers and central bankers tend to be polite affairs, verging upon horribly boring. But with a dramatic walkout on Wednesday, American, Canadian and some European officials showed that the schisms between Russia and Western allies are deep enough to change that. At a meeting in Washington of the finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 major economic powers, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, European Central Bank head Christine Lagarde, and top officials from Canada, Britain, and elsewhere stood up and walked out when it was the Russian finance minister’s turn to speak. (https://www.axios.com/yellen-g20-walkout-financial-diplomacy-69f9a6cc-4e64-4897-b7a3-8674c8da871b.html) The dedication of Western powers to using all economic tools available to make Russia a pariah state has become ever more evident, now backed by a vivid gesture on the biggest stage of financial diplomacy. The Western powers are seeking to apply pressure on the technocrats who staff Russia’s economic policy establishment, by making clear that their nation is being frozen out of the good graces of the world economic system more completely with each week that passes.

Newsline: Ethiopians queue outside Russian embassy in Addis Ababa to volunteer for fight in Ukraine

The queues formed early each morning outside the Russian embassy in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Drawn by rumours on social media, young men and old, many with their military records in hand, arrived with hopes of fighting for Russia in Ukraine. What began as a trickle of volunteers swelled over two weeks to scores, two neighbourhood residents told Reuters. Reuters reporters saw several hundred men registering with Ethiopian security guards outside the embassy. The guards recorded their names and asked for proof of military service. There is no evidence that any Ethiopians have been sent to Ukraine, nor is it clear if any ever will be. A man who came out of the embassy and addressed the volunteers in Russian through an interpreter said Russia had enough forces for now, but that they would be contacted when they were needed. The Russian embassy did not respond to questions from Reuters about the man’s identity or whether Russia was deploying Ethiopian volunteers to Ukraine. It issued a statement later on Tuesday saying that it was not recruiting fighters, and that the Ethiopians who showed up outside were well-wishers expressing “solidarity and support for the Russian Federation”. (https://news.yahoo.com/ethiopians-queue-volunteer-russias-fight-122944453.html) The Ethiopian foreign ministry welcomed the Russian statement for what it called “refuting the unfounded reports of recruitment for the Russian Armed Forces” but did not respond to Reuters questions. Neither did the Russian foreign ministry. Ukraine’s embassy in Addis Ababa referred questions to the Ethiopian authorities.

Newsline: Diplomatic Life Slowly Returns to Kyiv

Foreign diplomats are slowly returning to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and reopening their embassies, a vote of confidence that the worst of Russia’s assault against the Ukrainian city may be over—for now at least. At least 17 countries have sent their diplomats back to Kyiv, mostly European Union and NATO members that are supporting Ukraine in fighting off the Russian invasion. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/04/19/diplomatic-life-returns-kyiv-embassies/) The return of foreign diplomats makes clear that there is a return to some semblance of safety in the Ukrainian capital after nearly two months of Russian bombardment that saw Moscow’s forces come within 15 miles of the city’s center. Their return also presents a symbolic victory for Kyiv and a show of solidarity from its allies in Europe, which have supplied the Ukrainian government with economic support and military assistance to help repel the Russian invasion, which entered a new phase on Tuesday with its long-awaited assault on the eastern provinces.

Newsline: Diplomats say EU countries edge towards deal to share out emissions-cutting efforts

European Union countries are edging towards a deal on how to share the burden of cutting greenhouse gas emissions within the EU, with states poised to accept national targets proposed by Brussels last year, according to diplomats and a draft document seen by Reuters. (https://uk.investing.com/news/economy/eu-countries-edge-towards-deal-to-share-out-emissionscutting-efforts-2629709) The EU’s “effort sharing” policy sets national goals for its 27 member states to reduce emissions in sectors like transport and buildings, adding up to a 40% cut in relevant emissions by 2030, from 2005 levels. Under the draft proposal, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Denmark and Luxembourg would be obliged to cut emissions in the relevant sectors 50% by 2030, from 2005 levels, versus a 10% cut for Bulgaria and 12.7% for Romania. That would hike countries’ existing targets – Bulgaria’s existing goal is simply not to increase its emissions by 2030, while Germany currently faces a 38% cut. The targets are based on a country’s per capita economic output and adjusted to ensure emissions are cut cost effectively. Three EU diplomats said they expected the draft proposal to form the basis for a deal among countries, who would then negotiate the final rules with European Parliament. One diplomat said a sticking point is whether the gap between rich and poor states’ targets will narrow over time.

Newsline: China’s Embassy in Rwanda says Chinese businessman sentenced to 20 years in prison for beating workers

A court in Rwanda sentenced a Chinese businessman to 20 years in prison for torture after he was filmed beating a local man last year. Sun Shujun had been accused of beating his workers in a case that drew attention because he was filmed whipping a man tethered to a pole on the ground. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/chinese-man-gets-20-years-rwanda-whipping-rcna25313) The Chinese Embassy in Rwanda acknowledged Tuesday’s verdict in a statement Wednesday urging Chinese citizens living in Rwanda to abide by local laws. A Rwandan man, Renzaho Alexis, was sentenced to 12 years for his alleged role as an accomplice in the beatings.

Newsline: Russia closes Baltic consulates, expels employees

Russia has ordered the closure of the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian consulates and asked their employees to leave in a retaliatory move, Moscow’s foreign ministry said on Thursday. In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said it was closing the Latvian consulates in St Petersburg and Pskov, the Estonian consulate in St Petersburg and its office in Pskov, and the Lithuanian consulate in St Petersburg. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-baltic-consulates-idUSKCN2MD0T2) Earlier in April, Latvia and Estonia each ordered the closure of two Russian consulates over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while Lithuania told the Russian ambassador to leave.