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Newsline: Bulgaria expels two Russian diplomats for espionage

Bulgaria expelled two Russian diplomats who prosecutors suspect were involved in espionage and gave them 48 hours to leave the Balkan country, the foreign ministry said on Friday. EU and NATO member Bulgaria, which traditionally keeps close links to Russia, expelled another diplomat over espionage allegations in October and declined to grant a visa to Russia’s incoming defense attache. The Russian Embassy in Sofia said the two diplomats would leave Bulgaria, but Moscow reserved its right to respond to their expulsions. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bulgaria-russia/bulgaria-expels-two-russian-diplomats-for-espionage-idUSKBN1ZN10K) The embassy said Sofia had handed diplomatic notes to the ambassador without providing any proof that the two had acted in a way incompatible with their status. Earlier on Friday Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zharieva said the two would most likely be expelled after the foreign ministry was informed about the prosecutors’ allegations.

Newsline: U.S. accuses Russia, China of blocking U.N. statement on Baghdad embassy attack

The United States accused Russia and China on Monday of blocking a U.N. Security Council statement underscoring the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises after a Dec. 31 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Such statements by the 15-member Security Council have to be agreed on by consensus. The U.S. mission to the United Nations said 27 countries spoke out against the attack on the Baghdad embassy “in stark contrast to the United Nations Security Council’s silence due to two permanent members – Russia and China – not allowing a statement to proceed.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-un-usa/us-accuses-russia-china-of-blocking-un-statement-on-baghdad-embassy-attack-idUSKBN1Z51I5) The U.N. ambassadors of Russia and China both dismissed the U.S. accusation on Monday, saying they condemn any attacks on diplomatic premises around the world. Militiamen and their supporters protesting deadly U.S. air strikes on Iraq hurled stones and torched a security post at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31. U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Iran for “orchestrating” the attack on the embassy. On Friday, Iran’s most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport, an attack that carried U.S.-Iranian hostilities into uncharted waters. Russia and China said any statement by the U.N. Security Council on the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad should also include the latest developments.

Newsline: US ambassador sided with Poland in dispute with Russia

Germany and the Soviet Union were both responsible for the outbreak of World War II, said the United States Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher. Her statements, made in a tweet, were responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Poland was responsible for the start of the war. “Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict,” Mosbacher wrote. (https://www.dw.com/en/us-ambassador-in-poland-says-soviet-union-helped-start-wwii/a-51835348) Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday condemned Putin’s comments as well, writing in a statement that it was unacceptable to cast perpetrators as victims. The Polish Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the Russian ambassador over Putin’s comments. “President Putin has lied about Poland on numerous occasions, and he has always done it deliberately,” said Morawiecki. Over the past week, Putin has made multiple comments denying the Soviet Union’s role in starting the war, and tried to blame Poland for its outbreak. He also denied that Russia invaded Poland in 1939, purporting that Poland was on board with Hitler’s Holocaust plans.

Newsline: Poland summons Russian ambassador over WWII spat

The Polish authorities protested “historical insinuations” made by top Kremlin officials by summoning Russian ambassador to Warsaw, Sergey Andreyev. “[W]e are ready to explain to Russian diplomats historical facts for as long as it will take for them to understand that the world will never forget the true meaning of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact,” Polish Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcin Przydacz, said on Twitter on Saturday. (https://www.dw.com/en/poland-summons-arussian-ambassador-over-wwii-spat/a-51822547) After Vladimir Putin slammed Polish envoy to Nazi Germany as an “anti-Semitic pig,” Poland summoned Russia’s ambassador. The nations dispute the role of Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of non-aggression in the lead-up to WWII. The latest escalation comes after the European Parliament passed a resolution on the pact, saying the accord “paved the way for the outbreak of World War II,” and describing it as a deal “between the two totalitarian regimes.” Moscow has long insisted that the pact, named after German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart Vyacheslav Molotov, was a necessary evil to delay the Nazi invasion. Modern Russia also strongly resents attempts to equalize Nazi Germany and the Stalin-led Soviet Union, whose troops caused well over half of Germany’s military losses and also paid the highest price to defeat the Nazi war machine.

Newsline: Putin Calls Former Polish Ambassador ‘Anti-Semitic Pig’

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Polish officials on Tuesday for siding with the Nazis prior to World War II in comments sparked by a recent European resolution. The European Parliament in September condemned the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — a Soviet-Nazi non-aggression deal — for the outbreak of World War II and blamed modern Russia for rewriting history by exonerating its signing. The move has been met with derision by Putin and other Russian officials, who say the pact — which divided Poland into spheres of influence — helped save thousands of lives. Citing archival documents, Putin told defense officials Tuesday that Poland’s envoy to Nazi Germany had promised to build Hitler “a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he expelled the country’s Jews to Africa. “That bastard! That anti-Semitic pig,” Putin said, apparently referring to Józef Lipski, who served as the Polish ambassador in Berlin until 1939. (https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/12/25/putin-calls-former-polish-ambassador-anti-semitic-pig-a68739) “He was in complete solidarity with Hitler in his anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic sentiment,” the Russian president said. Putin echoed his insistence Friday that the Soviet Union had been the last to sign a non-aggression agreement with Hitler before the outbreak of war. Poland and the Western powers, Putin said, “acted in collusion” with Hitler. These dealings, particularly the 1938 Munich Agreement that allowed Hitler to annex parts of former Czechoslovakia, actually paved the way toward World War II, he argued — in his second comments on the matter over the past week.

Newsline: Senate confirms Trump’s Russia ambassador

The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Trump’s pick to be the next ambassador to Russia. Senators voted 70-22 to confirm John Sullivan, who currently serves as the deputy secretary of State. Sullivan will replace former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who left the post to run for governor in Utah. (https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/474318-senate-confirms-trumps-russia-ambassador) Despite Trump’s warmer tone toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States and Russia have had a rocky relationship during the Trump era. The Senate’s vote comes after Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov contradicted each other this week about whether they discussed election meddling during their White House meeting. Trump, in a tweet, indicated that they did, while Lavrov told reporters it wasn’t brought up. The United States and Moscow have repeatedly butted heads over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Congress passed a wide-ranging sanctions bill, over reluctance from the White House, in 2017.

Newsline: Russia expels German diplomats amid dispute

Russia says it is expelling two German diplomats in retaliation for a similar move by Berlin over suspicions that Moscow ordered the killing of an ethnic Chechen in the German capital. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50755417) Last week the German government threw out two Russian diplomats. It suspects Russia or Russia’s Chechen republic ordered the murder in August of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian national. Russia denies involvement. A Russian citizen is being held in Germany over the killing. Berlin said it regretted Thursday’s expulsions, but the Kremlin said they were a standard diplomatic move. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday called the man murdered in Berlin a “bandit”, but denied that his country had been involved in his death.