Archive for Europe
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday asked the Federal Security Service (FSB) to take additional measures to protect Russian diplomats working abroad. “The horrible crime, the murder of our ambassador in Turkey, has raised the pressing issue of the protection of Russian citizens working at our foreign diplomat missions,” Putin said at a meeting of the FSB board. He said FSB should “take additional measures to ensure security” together with the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service.
Zimbabwe’s diplomats in Europe are using battered cars with some relying on fellow African envoys’ transport to attend business, a government report has revealed. One such diplomat is Rudo Mabel Chitiga, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to France. According to a recent report by the Parliamentary Portfolio on Foreign Affairs, to the speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, Chitiga’s car failed to start when she had visited a fellow African diplomat in Paris recently. “The first incident involved our ambassador in Paris whose official car couldn’t start when she had visited her Namibian counterpart and was forced, under humiliating circumstances, to use the Namibian ambassador’s car back to her office. This is because the car she is using has already outlived its life span,” said the report.
National security adviser Michael Flynn resigned, citing “incomplete information” that he provided top White House officials about his dealings with the Russian ambassador. “Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice-president elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn wrote in a public statement. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.” Trump immediately named Lt. General Joseph Keith Kellogg, Jr., as acting national security adviser, the White House reported. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn was misleading about the interactions with the ambassador, an official told USA TODAY.
Thousands of business visas were issued by Hungary’s embassy in Moscow in 2013 without proper checks, according to an internal report of the Hungarian foreign ministry. The foreign ministry, wanting to keep the report secret, only published the document on Wednesday after a small opposition green party, the LMP, won a legal battle against the ministry to obtain the report. It was eventually published one week after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Hungary, which highlighted the good relationship between Moscow and Budapest. The report states that between January 1 and November 26, 2013 the Hungarian embassy in Moscow issued 8,481 business visas. Around 40-45 percent of the visas were issued on the invitation of a Hungarian wine company called Monte Tokaj, inviting Russian citizens of unclear financial background and profession to Hungary. Visa applicants’ documents were not properly checked and omitted information such as applicants’ addresses. Processing the visas took only a few hours and did not include personal interviews. As the Hungarian visa is a Schengen visa, giving the owner the right to travel to 25 countries, most of the invited Russians didn’t even enter Hungary but rather travelled to other member states of the Schengen area. The visa allowed them an entry for 90 days over a one-year period. The foreign ministry claims that there had been no similar problems since 2014, as after an internal investigation the controls were tightened at the embassy and the business visa accreditation of Monte Tokaj was withdrawn.
Julian Assange will be given a month’s notice to leave the Ecuadorian embassy if the country’s main opposition candidate wins the presidency in next week’s election. In an interview with the Guardian, Guillermo Lasso, of the rightwing Creo-Suma alliance, said it was time for the WikiLeaks founder to move on because his asylum was expensive and no longer justified. “The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” he said during an interview in Quito. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.” Even if there is no change in power in Quito, however, it seems increasingly likely that Assange will soon be moving from the cramped embassy in Knightsbridge that has been his refuge for more than four and a half years. Although the current government has maintained its position of solidarity, all involved have grown increasingly frustrated with a situation that Ecuador’s top diplomat described as “something out of a John le Carré novel”. “Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said the foreign minister, Guillaume Long. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.” British police and intelligence have kept the embassy under close surveillance since Ecuador granted asylum in June 2012 to prevent Assange’s extradition to Sweden for questioning about a sexual assault accusation.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry has criticized a Ukrainian lawmaker who defaced a part of the Berlin Wall in the grounds of its Kyiv embassy. Oleksiy Honcharenko, a member of President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc, sprayed red paint on a fragment of the wall Wednesday after German ambassador Ernst Reichel suggested in an interview that local elections could be held in eastern Ukraine despite the presence of Russian troops in the region. Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Honcharenko’s actions constituted “wholly inappropriate behaviour .” Schaefer said Germany considers a Ukraine a “close partner” and was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Kyiv 25 years ago. He said Germany is working to host a meeting of foreign ministers from Ukraine and Russia next week. Germany has given parts of the wall to countries all round the world, and placed others at embassies and German institutions.
The actual danger that Russia’s embassy in Damascus may come under attack is not decreasing even amid the ceasefire deal between the Syrian government and the opposition, Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak said in an interview with TASS. “The establishment of ceasefire on December 30, 2016 had a positive impact on the military and political situation in Syria in general,” he said. “Unfortunately, this does not mean that the security situation of the embassy has automatically improved.” Russia’s embassy in Damascus again came under shelling on February 3, the ambassador said, adding that there was no serious damage to it. “We constantly register shellings in close vicinity to the embassy,” he added.