Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 5, 2022

Newsline: Putin Apologized for top diplomat’s Hitler Remarks

Russian President Vladimir Putin has apologized to Israel for his top diplomat’s assertion that Adolf Hitler “had Jewish blood,” the Israeli prime minister’s office said Thursday. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/vladimir-putin-apologizes-for-foreign-minister-sergei-lavrovs-comment-on-ukraine-and-hitler-israeli-pm-says) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he had accepted the Russian leader’s apology, which came after Russia’s foreign ministry spent several days this week tearing into Israel for supposedly supporting “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov started the spat earlier this week when, while attempting to justify his country’s supposed crusade to liberate Ukraine from “Nazis” despite its president being Jewish, he suggested Jews could also be antisemitic. The Kremlin, perhaps unsurprisingly, made no mention of the apology in its own readout of the two leaders’ phone conversation.

Newsline: Russia expels Denmark embassy staff in tit-for-tat move

Russia has declared seven members of Denmark’s embassy persona non grata, giving them two weeks to leave the country. Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that it summoned Danish Ambassador Carsten Sondergaard to inform him of the retaliatory measures following the expulsion of 15 Russian diplomats from Denmark and the country’s military aid to Ukraine. Russia reserves the right “to take additional steps in response to Copenhagen’s unfriendly actions”, the statement said, adding that a diplomat of the Danish mission was also refused a visa as part of the retaliatory measures. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/5/russia-expels-denmark-embassy-staff-in-tit-for-tat-move) The Danish foreign ministry said Russia was expelling seven members of its diplomatic mission, including four diplomats. In a statement to the AFP news agency, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod called the move “a totally unjustified and deeply problematic decision”. “Russia no longer wants real dialogue and diplomacy,” he said, noting that Denmark had in fact expelled Russian intelligence agents and not diplomats.

Newsline: US top diplomat tests positive for COVID

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tested positive for COVID on Wednesday as infections following the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C. continue to rise. The nation’s top diplomat attended the black tie gala on Saturday at the Washington Hilton along with President Biden and an audience of 2,600 journalists, political heavyweights and celebrities. “It is my great honor to be speaking tonight at the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event,” host Trevor Noah joked at the event. (https://www.aol.com/covid-cases-emerge-white-house-154118780.html) The president is not considered a close contact of Blinken and the two have not met for “several days,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Newsline: Russian ‘Spyville’ Returns to Polish Hands

Soviet diplomats moved out of the hulking Warsaw housing compound more than 30 years ago. But some Russians stayed behind, sheltering until the early 2000s behind a fence topped with barbed wire from a city that, with the collapse of their empire, had suddenly become hostile territory — and an important intelligence target. “It was always called Spyville and yes, many of these guys were spies,” the mayor of Warsaw, Rafal Trzaskowski, said. (https://news.yahoo.com/crumbling-russian-spyville-returns-polish-182720534.html) Fed up by Russia’s refusal to relinquish the property despite court rulings that it no longer had rights to the site, the mayor last month grabbed it back, declaring that he wanted it for Ukrainians instead. The number of Russian diplomatic personnel in Warsaw, he said, has been falling for decades, accelerated by the recent expulsion of 45 suspected spies.

Newsline: Former Embassy of Qatar security officer seeking monetary damages from Maryland police

Steven Alexander was walking home with groceries after a night shift as an Embassy of Qatar special police officer in 2018 when a taser-drawn Maryland police officer approached him and demanded that he show his credentials. When Alexander refused, the officer pointed his firearm at him and demanded that he get on the ground. Once he was on the ground, the officer pepper-sprayed Alexander before putting him in handcuffs, according to a lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star. (https://news.yahoo.com/did-nothing-wrong-other-walking-131300303.html) Alexander was never allowed to return to his job. The Qatar Embassy did not respond to requests for comment from Atlanta Black Star. Alexander wished the incident never happened. He was afraid to go public with the story out of fear that it may traumatize his family. In his lawsuit, he is seeking monetary damages. A jury must decide how much Alexander would be awarded. The state allows Alexander to get up to $400,000 in damages from a police officer. Lawmakers increased the cap to $600,000 starting in October 2021, but Alexander filed his case before the threshold was raised.