Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for November 5, 2019

Newsline: Former US Ambassador to Ukraine says she was warned to ‘watch my back’

It started with a warning to watch her back, that people were “looking to hurt” her. From there, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House investigators, it escalated into a chilling campaign to fire her as President Donald Trump and his allies angled in Eastern Europe for political advantage at home. Testimony from Yovanovitch, released on Monday, offered a first word-for-word look at the closed-door House impeachment hearings. Inside, Democrats and Republicans are waging a pitched battle over what to make of Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine’s leaders to investigate political rival Joe Biden, Biden’s son and Democratic activities in the 2016 election. (https://wtop.com/government/2019/11/former-ambassador-says-she-was-warned-to-watch-my-back/) The transcript came out on the same day that four Trump administration officials defied subpoenas to testify, acting on orders from a White House that is fighting the impeachment investigation with all its might. Among those refusing to testify: John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer at the National Security Council and, by some accounts, the man who ordered a rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader moved to a highly restricted computer system.

Newsline: Russia Held Up an Ailing American Military Attaché From Leaving Moscow

The American was safely evacuated, but the episode was the latest indication that Russian intimidation of American officials has reached levels unseen since the Cold War. Russian officials in August held up the evacuation from Moscow of a sick American military attaché to a hospital in Germany in the latest episode of a long-running campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Russia. Diplomatic protocols allow for the fast evacuation of diplomats facing medical emergencies. But the departure of the plane sent to evacuate the attaché was delayed for hours for no apparent reason despite protests from embassy officials and the State Department in Washington, according to several Trump administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic issue that some other officials prefer to play down. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/us/politics/russian-harassment-american-attache.html) The Russians eventually relented, and the American, a uniformed officer, was safely evacuated, the officials said. While State and Defense Department officials confirmed there was a medical incident in Russia, they declined to identify the officer and would not provide any details of the case or why he was being evacuated. In a statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry played down the delay of the attaché’s departure. It said that the ailing American military officer had passed “right through” border control while still in an ambulance, and that a “slight delay” of about 20 minutes occurred during boarding because the diplomat’s “foreign doctors” were mistakenly declared as crew members and required boarding passes, which took time to process. The Russian statement also pointed a finger back at the United States, charging that it had interfered several years ago with the medical care of Russia’s former prime minister and foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov. A Russian diplomat in the United States was detained by American authorities after going to a pharmacy to buy medicine for Mr. Primakov, who was gravely ill with cancer in Moscow, the statement said. “The medicine was delivered to Russia only after the U.S. Secretary of State, J. Kerry, got involved,” the Russian statement charged, referring to John Kerry, who served in that role under President Barack Obama. “But time was wasted.”