Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for Russia

Newsline: Russian State Media Invented ‘Huge’ Lines Outside the US Embassy

One day before the U.S diplomatic mission to Russia is due to stop processing non-immigrant visas, Russian state media reported long queues outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow — even as the situation on the ground told a different story. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Tuesday reported that “a long line of people who came for interviews or to pick up their visas” had formed in front of the U.S. Embassy on Novinsky Bulvar. Other Russian media, including the Metro and Life.ru outlets, also claimed long queues had formed in front of the American diplomatic mission, with the state-run Vesti.ru describing the crowd size as “gigantic.” The RIA article was shared on social media with a picture of crowds standing outside the embassy, but the picture was quickly outed on social media as being taken at a vigil in July in honor of Linkin Park singer, Chester Bennington. RIA later deleted the tweet. A RBC journalist said there were about seven people waiting outside the consular section and around 10 journalists early on Tuesday morning. A Moscow Times reporter at Novinsky Bulvar on Tuesday morning between 11:15 a.m. 12:45 p.m. said the area around the embassy was quiet except for other journalists and television crews, with roughly ten people coming out of the consular section during an hour-long period. The U.S. Embassy in Russia on Monday announced it planned to temporarily suspend processing all non-immigrant visa applications for Russian citizens beginning Aug 23. The announcement said operations in Moscow would resume in September, with consular services for Russians in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg remaining “suspended indefinitely.”


Newsline: US Embassy in Russia stops issuing tourist visas for 8 days

In a step that could affect hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said it would suspend issuing nonimmigrant visas for eight days from Wednesday in response to the Russian decision to cap embassy staff. The embassy made the decision after the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered a cap on the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, it said in a statement, adding that it would resume issuing visas in Moscow on Sept. 1, but maintain the suspension at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok indefinitely. Nearly a quarter of a million Russian tourists visited the U.S. last year, according to Russian tourism officials. Earlier this month, Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, or two-thirds. Moscow’s move was a long-expected response to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the United States following allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. vote. The vast majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and the three consulates, are believed to be Russian nationals. The U.S. embassy said Monday that Russia’s decision to cut its staff “calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations.” However, it insisted that it would be able to maintain adequate staffing “to carry out essential elements of our mission.”The U.S. State Department said the decision to suspend visas was not retaliation for Russia’s capping of U.S. diplomatic personnel, noting that having fewer personnel inevitably results in a reduction in the services they can provide.


Newsline: Putin Names Longtime Diplomat Antonov As Ambassador To U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Anatoly Antonov, a veteran diplomat who has served in both the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry, as ambassador to the United States. The appointment was announced on the Kremlin website on August 21. Antonov, 62, has been a staunch public advocate of Russia’s assertive foreign policy in recent years and is seen as a tough negotiator on issues including arms control. A longtime Foreign Ministry official, he had been a deputy foreign minister since December 2016, having moved back after nearly six years as a deputy defense minister. Antonov replaces Sergei Kislyak, who had been Russia’s ambassador to Washington since 2008. The Kremlin announcement of Antonov’s appointment, which had been widely reported to be imminent in recent weeks, came shortly after the U.S. Embassy said that nonimmigrant visa processing would be suspended at the embassy and consulates in Russia as of August 23 — the latest development in a series of disputes that have severely strained U.S.-Russian ties since Putin returned to the presidency for a third term in 2012.


Newsline: Top Vatican Diplomat Set To Meet With Putin In Moscow

The Vatican’s secretary of state is set to arrive in Moscow on August 21 for an official visit slated to include a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cardinal Pietro Parolin said earlier this month that he hopes his four-day trip could help lay the groundwork for an eventual visit by Pope Francis to Russia, which no head of the Catholic Church has visited in the modern era. “The preparation of a possible visit to Russia by [Pope] Francis is not part of the aims of my visit,” Parolin told Italy’s Corriere della Sera in an interview published August 10. “With God’s help, however, I hope it can make some contribution in this direction,” he added. Francis has sought to bridge enduring tensions between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic branches of Christianity, including with a landmark February 2016 meeting in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Parolin told Russia’s state-run TASS news agency in an interview published August 20 that he will meet Kirill again in Moscow. He is set to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on August 22 and Putin the following day, TASS quoted Parolin as saying.


Newsline: Russian Foreign Ministry summons Israeli ambassador

Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry to clarify his country’s position on Russia’s participation in the project to build a museum on the grounds of the Sobibor Nazi death camp in eastern Poland, the embassy’s spokesman Alex Gandler told TASS. According to Gandler, the ambassador confirmed that “the Israeli Foreign Ministry supports Russia’s participation in the international management committee for the reconstruction of the Sobibor death camp museum.” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that the ambassadors of Israel and a number of European countries had been summoned to the ministry “for a serious conversation” in light of the international committee’s decision not to include Russia in the Sobibor museum project. Russia was invited to take part in the project to renovate the Sobibor museum and memorial in 2013. The project had been initiated by Poland, Israel, Holland and Slovakia, whose representatives comprise the organizing committee. Russia accepted the invitation and expressed readiness to make a significant financial contribution, but the further consultations with Poland concerning Russia’s participation produced no results. In July, news came that a decision had been made to carry on with the project without Russia involved.


Newsline: Russia may be forced to shut down consulate in retaliation for slashing US diplomatic staff

Russia may be forced to close one of four consulates in the U.S. as part of an ongoing diplomatic tit-for-tat between the two countries, sources said. The U.S. State Department will announce whether Russia will have to close one of the consulate generals in New York, Houston, San Francisco, or Seattle, by September 1, according to sources cited by the Russian newspaper Kommersant. Congress imposed sanctions on Russia — which Trump begrudgingly signed off on — because of the Kremlin’s interference in the U.S. presidential elections last year. The backlash was swift, and Russia seized two American diplomatic properties in Russia in late July.


Newsline: Trump says was being ‘sarcastic’ in thanking Putin for embassy staff cuts

President Donald Trump said on Friday he was being sarcastic when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for saving the United States money by ordering cuts in U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia. Asked whether he was being sarcastic, Trump told reporters: “In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that,” Trump said without explicitly criticizing the move. Breaking nearly two weeks of silence on Putin’s July 30 order cutting U.S. embassy and consulate staff by nearly two thirds, Trump said on Thursday: “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” adding “there’s no real reason for them to go back.” Trump’s remarks rekindled criticism of his kid-glove handling of Putin, especially as he has not shied away from being highly critical of members of his own party, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Putin, reacting to new sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress and reluctantly signed into law by Trump, ordered Washington to cut its diplomatic and technical staff by 755 people by Sept. 1. Many of those affected likely will be local Russian staffers. It was also a reaction to former President Barack Obama expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the United States last December over the intelligence agency reports.