Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Russian Embassy in US Slams State Department Over Meddling in Domestic Election

The Russian Embassy in Washington accused the US State Department of interfering in Russian home affairs over claims that the upcoming presidential voting would not be transparent. “[State Dept] is showing another example of interference in our internal affairs. Now with fake news. Bad attempt to damage Russian democracy. Will not work. Full transparency of Presidential elections guaranteed,” the Embassy tweeted in response. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted Friday that the Russian Central Election Commission had allegedly denied observer status to 5,000 independents, in what she said was a proof that Kremlin authorities “fear transparency.” Russians go to the polls Sunday, March 18, to elect a new president. Incumbent Vladimir Putin is running as an independent.



Newsline: South Sudan Embassy Worker in US Says Went Unpaid for a Year

An employee of South Sudan’s embassy in Washington says the embassy owes him more than a year’s back salary — another indication of mounting financial problems for the war-ravaged country’s government. In January, South Sudan closed its embassy in London after not paying rent on the building for five months. There is no sign South Sudan’s embassy in Washington will go the same route, but its driver, Manyok Lual, suggests the embassy is having cash flow problems. In an interview with VOA’s South Sudan in Focus, Lual, 44, said employees of the embassy went a year without getting paid until this month, when diplomats received two months of salary arrears and local employees like himself received one month. “They say we don’t have money in the country, the country is at war now … and just hang on, when we get the money, we will pay you. And it is quite a long time without getting paid,” Lual said. Multiple sources at the embassy say the country has been paying its rent, but sometimes delays its payments by three to five days.


Newsline: Russia expels 23 UK diplomats

Moscow is to expel 23 UK diplomats and shut down the British Council in Russia amid increasing tensions over a nerve agent attack against a former double agent and his daughter on British soil. The Russian foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador on Saturday to inform him of the retaliatory action taken after the UK’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. But the Russian Federation has gone a step further and has shut down all activities of the British Council, the cultural organisation which promotes greater understanding of the UK and the English language. The foreign ministry said it would also shut down a consulate in St Petersburg.



Newsline: Here’s What That ‘Strange’ US Helicopter Was Doing Over Russia’s US Embassy

The mysterious chopper that flew over the Russian Embassy in Washington with its searchlight on last week appeared to be a law enforcement helicopter on a mission, a source from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation told Sputnik. “It was a law enforcement helicopter, operating with the knowledge of the Air traffic control services. It was flying over that area by order: they were either looking for someone or responded to a call,” the source said. Last week, the Washington police offered a potential explanation, saying that one of its helicopters was dispatched to an area north of the Russian Embassy in response to a possible gun robbery, The Washington Post reported. On March 13, the Russian Embassy in the US tweeted an image of an enigmatic chopper detected over its diplomatic premises which looked like a UFO. Russian diplomats turned it into a joke, alluding to the Kremlin-Trump collusion and the “Russian meddling” conspiracy theory and pointing out the absurdity of the accusations.



Newsline: Russia will expel British diplomats in poisoning standoff

Russia said Friday that it will expel British diplomats and halt high-level meetings with the U.K. in an increasingly global standoff over the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy — but still isn’t saying who will be kicked out or when. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said to expect a Russian response “shortly” to Britain’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and accused Britain of violating international law and “common sense.” Russia’s foreign minister said Britain’s defense minister “lacks education.” Geopolitical tensions are mounting since the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month, in what Western powers see as the latest sign of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling abroad. The tensions threaten to overshadow Putin’s expected re-election Sunday for another six-year term. “We have never encountered this level of discussion on the global stage,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, saying he’s been surprised by the British reaction. Accusing the Russian state of the nerve agent attack, Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats and is trying to build a coalition of countries to punish Moscow as a result.



Newsline: Russian embassy relies on Twitter diplomacy, trolls UK government

When Theresa May stood up in parliament on Wednesday and said that the Russian reaction to the use of a nerve agent on British soil had been “sarcasm, contempt, and defiance” she must in part have been referring to the social media output of Russia’s UK embassy since the news broke of Sergei Skripal’s poisoning. While the embassy’s official response has been terse and sober – a 57-word statement that describes the UK’s diplomatic expulsions as a “hostile action” that is “totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted” – its Twitter activity has been anything but restrained; instead it has frequently goaded May’s government. Following the announcement of the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats described as “undeclared intelligence officers” by May, the embassy tweeted an image of a thermometer. Describing the temperature of relations between the two countries as dropping to -23C. The tweet finished “but we are not afraid of cold weather”.



Newsline: Embassy staff accused of trafficking migrants in Libya

Libya has issued arrest warrants for more than 200 people suspected of playing pivotal roles in the country’s brutal smuggling networks. Those accused of involvement in the trafficking rings and of torture, rape and murder include African embassy officials in Tripoli, members of the Libyan security forces and the heads of the government-run migrant detention camps. Libya has conducted the investigation with help from Italy, Seddiq al-Sour, head of investigations at the attorney-general’s office, said.