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Newsline: Russian diplomat pledges to facilitate development of Venezuela’s armed forces

Russia will continue to facilitate the development of Venezuela’s military potential, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on July 5. (https://tass.com/defense/1067255) “We will continue our multifaceted efforts on developing partner relations with brotherly Venezuela. We will continue to implement projects in various areas, to hold events within the existing agreements that would strengthen the military potential of this country’s armed forces,” he said. Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and speaker of the National Assembly, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country’s Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country’s capital, Caracas, on January 23. On the same day, the United States recognized him as an interim president, and the countries of the Lima Group (excluding Mexico) and the Organization of American States followed suit. Most European Union member states recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey voiced support for Maduro.


Newsline: Russian embassy in Caracas said military ‘technicians’ left Venezuela

Russia was withdrawing its military “technicians” from crisis-stricken Venezuela on June 26, the Caracas embassy said, as President Vladimir Putin gears up for talks with US leader Donald Trump later this week. (https://www.yahoo.com/news/russia-withdraw-military-technicians-venezuela-wednesday-embassy-184916199.html) The move comes three months after Moscow drew US ire by deploying around 100 military experts in Venezuela after Washington indicated it could use force to oust beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro, a Russian ally. “The Il-62 plane which is carrying Russian technicians who have been in Venezuela over the past months… was leaving Caracas for Moscow on June 26,” the Russian embassy in Caracas said in a post on Facebook. An embassy press attache told AFP “one plane” was departing for Moscow, declining to explain the timing of the move or provide any other comments. In the statement, the embassy sought to play down the nature of cooperation as “fairly routine maintenance work”, saying it would continue. “Russia delivered to Venezuela high-level equipment that requires regular maintenance. Furthermore, Russian specialists provided technical training to Venezuelan staff”,” the embassy said. “Unlike reported, it was not a Russian military presence but the fulfilment of maintenance contracts, without any purpose of destabilisation.” Russian experts were leaving Venezuela as Russia’s Putin is gearing up for talks with Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on June 28.

Newsline: Trump’s Russia Ambassador Wants to Come Home

Donald Trump’s man in Moscow may soon be coming home. Jon Huntsman, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Russia since 2017, is expected to leave his job by the end of the year and is seriously considering a run for governor of Utah, according to sources familiar with the situation. (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/06/huntsman-russia-utah/591247/) Huntsman’s potential interest in the governorship—which he previously held from 2004 to 2009—has been a point of speculation in Utah political circles for months. Earlier this year, both Salt Lake City daily newspapers reported that he might be eyeing the 2020 gubernatorial race. But Huntsman’s allies say the prospect has gotten more serious than many realize.

Newsline: The EU’s Embassy In Russia Was Hacked But The EU Kept It A Secret

The European Union’s embassy in Moscow was hacked and had information stolen from its network, according to a leaked internal document seen by BuzzFeed News. An ongoing “sophisticated cyber espionage event” was discovered in April, just weeks before the European Parliament elections — but the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign and security policy agency, did not disclose the incident publicly. (https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/albertonardelli/eu-embassy-moscow-hack-russia) Russian entities are believed to be behind the hack, a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told BuzzFeed News. The EEAS confirmed an incident had taken place and, asked whether the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini knew about the incident, said that EEAS hierarchy had been informed. “We have observed potential signs of compromised systems connected to our unclassified network in our Moscow Delegation. Measures have been taken and the investigation is in progress — at this stage we cannot comment further,” a spokesperson said. According to the leaked document, the initial attack took place in February 2017, but it was only detected in April this year. An analysis of the hack found activity affecting at least two computers and concluded that information had been stolen.

Newsline: Russia summons Spanish ambassador over ‘old enemy’ comment

Russia summoned Spain’s ambassador to Moscow on Tuesday after acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell referred to the country as an “old enemy”, the Russian foreign ministry said on May 28. Borrell told Spanish newspaper El Periodico last week: “Russia, our old enemy, is once again saying, ‘here I am,’ and has returned as a threat, and China is also presenting itself as a rival.” The ministry said Borrell’s comment “damages the relations between Spain and Russia, the mutual perception of bilateral relations as friendly, based on a partnership and mutually-beneficial.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-spain-diplomacy/russia-summons-spanish-ambassador-over-old-enemy-comment-idUSKCN1SY1W6) The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed Russia’s decision to summon the envoy and criticized it. “Russia’s reaction has surprised negatively. We believe they have overreacted, interpreting in a bilateral way some reflections over global geopolitics made from a European perspective,” a Spanish Foreign Ministry official said.

Newsline: Rusal Names Controversial Ex-Ambassador to Head Guinea Office

United Co. Rusal named a controversial former Russian ambassador to Guinea to head its unit in the West African nation, raising local fears of Russian influence on next year’s presidential elections. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-25/rusal-names-controversial-ex-ambassador-to-head-guinea-office) The aluminum giant announced the appointment on May 24 of Alexander Bregadze, who served as ambassador to Guinea for eight years until March. Bregadze sparked a public outcry in January when he praised Guinea’s President Alpha Conde in a speech on state TV as “legendary” and said constitutions aren’t dogma and can be changed. Guinea is among several African countries with vast mineral wealth where Russia has pushed to expand its military and political influence in recent years. Bregadze’s comments came as Guinea’s opposition and civil-society groups have repeatedly expressed concern that 81-year-old Conde may try to amend the constitution and run for a third term. While Conde is due to step down in 2020, his refusal to address any questions about his intentions has fueled widespread speculation he plans to stay in office.

Newsline: Venezuelan ambassador to Moscow denies rumors about Russian military base

Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa has denied rumors that Russia may set up a military base in the country. “We hear the media talking about it. I don’t know where they get such information,” the ambassador said at a briefing on May 21. “No one ever – at least no officials from either our cabinet or the Russian government – mentioned plans to set up a [Russian] military base in Venezuela,” he said. (http://tass.com/defense/1059255) “You should ask the Americans how many military bases they have around the world. There are seven of them near our country’s borders, in Colombia,” Faria Tortosa added. He also said that Caracas and Moscow had “good relations in many areas, including defense cooperation.” “Cooperation will continue,” the Venezuelan ambassador said.