Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 4, 2023

Newsline: US ambassador visits American detained in Russia

U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy on Thursday visited American citizen Paul Whelan in the prison he has been held in Mordovia in eastern Russia, the U.S. embassy said. “Paul has been wrongfully detained in Russia for more than 4 years, and his release remains an absolute priority. The U.S. government will continue to engage Russian authorities on his case so Paul can come home as soon as possible,” the embassy said in a tweet. (https://neuters.de/world/us-envoy-russia-visits-detained-american-paul-whelan-prison-embassy-2023-05-04/) Whelan, a former U.S. marine, was arrested in December 2018, held for 18 months in Lefortovo prison in Moscow and jailed for 16 years in June 2020 on spying charges. He has denied the accusations. The United States has designated Whelan as “wrongfully detained”, a term that effectively says the charges are bogus and the case is politically driven.

Newsline: Russia complains to Finland about vandalism at consulate

Russia has complained to Finland about vandalism at a Russian consulate on the Aland islands in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden, the Finnish foreign ministry said on Thursday. The Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday a group of people had thrown “an explosive noise device” and other items into the consulate’s territory, causing material damage to the building between April 20 and May 1. “The perpetrators’ actions posed a direct threat to the life and health of the staff of the Russian mission,” it said. Local police said they had initiated a preliminary investigation into the case, adding they had the identities of persons who may have been involved. “The damage consists of the consulate’s mailbox being torn down from its stand and a beer bottle being thrown at the consulate, resulting in a window panel being broken,” it said in a statement. The Finnish foreign ministry said police were “clarifying and investigating” the incident. “The case is regrettable,” it said in an email. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-complains-finland-vandalism-consulate-083143237.html) Aland’s demilitarised status, which dates back to the end of the Crimean war in 1856, and Russia’s consular presence in the autonomous region have become a topic of debate in Finland.

Newsline: US top diplomat says Washington engaged with Syria on case of missing American journalist

The United States is extensively engaged on the case of a U.S. journalist who disappeared a decade ago, including with Syria and other countries, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “We’re extensively engaged with regard to Austin – engaged with Syria, engaged with third countries – seeking to find a way to get him home. And we’re not going to relent until we do,” Blinken said in a Washington Post interview on Wednesday. (https://neuters.de/world/blinken-says-us-engaged-with-syria-case-missing-american-journalist-austin-tice-2023-05-03/) Austin Tice, a former U.S. Marine and a freelance journalist, was kidnapped in August 2012 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He was 31 at the time. His family believes he is alive and still being held in Syria. The identity of Tice’s captors is not known, and there has been no claim of responsibility for his abduction. President Joe Biden last year said Washington knows “with certainty” that Tice has at times been held by the Syrian government. Syria’s government has denied kidnapping or holding Tice. The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that the Biden administration has renewed direct talks with Syria over Tice’s case and those of other Americans, citing Middle East officials familiar with the efforts.