Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: US diplomat summoned over Russian flag removal from seized diplomatic properties

The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the US embassy chief in Moscow to demand the return of Russian flags, which were removed from seized diplomatic properties in the United States earlier this week. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the American charge d’affaires had been summoned to account for the seized diplomatic property. “I can say you for sure that the protest has been lodged to the US side taking into consideration absolutely inadmissible actions. The US charge d’affaires in Russia was summoned and he has received a note of protest.” Russian flags had been removed from former consular buildings in San Francisco as well as a trade mission in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, which had previously been shut by US authorities. The Russian mission to the US described the move as “extremely unfriendly” while on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by phone that the flag’s removal was “unacceptable.” In response, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a press briefing on Thursday that the flags had been “respectfully lowered,” are being “safely stored” and will be returned “at their [Russia’s] convenience.” The dispute over the flags is the latest episode in an ongoing diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington, which started with the expulsion of 35 Russian embassy staff by outgoing President Barack Obama in late December 2016, as well as the closure of two diplomatic compounds in Washington, DC, and Maryland.



Newsline: Embassy in Pyongyang Points to North Korean Atlas Showing Crimea as Russia

The Russian Embassy in North Korea said in a Facebook post that Pyongyang’s new political atlas designates the Crimean peninsula as Russian territory. The Thursday post states that the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) “respects the results of the referendum which took place in Crimea regarding the incorporation of the peninsula into the Russian Federation.” North Korea considers the referendum “legitimate and completely meeting international legal standards,” said the embassy.


Newsline: Russian ambassador says unfriendly moves contradict US pledges to normalize ties

The antagonistic steps taken by US authorities run counter to their earlier assurances that they want to normalize relations with Moscow, the Russian Embassy in Washington said on Thursday citing Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov. “A resolute protest has been conveyed to the US side following the removal of Russian flags from our diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington. Earlier, these buildings were actually seized by the US authorities in violation of the norms of international law, bilateral agreements and the US laws,” Antonov said in an interview with the Rossiya television channel. “We consider these as highly unfriendly steps that run counter to previous official Washington assurances that it wants to normalize bilateral relations. The entire responsibility for the violation of norms of international relations rests only on Washington,” he stressed. Russia’s embassy in the United States said earlier it had lodged a protest to the US side over removal of flags from the seized Russian diplomatic facilities in San Francisco and the trade mission in Washington, and demanded the flags be immediately placed back. Later on, a State Department official told TASS that the Russian flags were removed from the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco by US authorities and it was done with due respect to Russia’s national symbols. “The flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered and are safely stored within each of the buildings,” he said obviously referring to the consulate general and the consul’s residence in San Francisco. On September 2, the US authorities shut down the Russian trade mission in Washington, DC and its branch in New York City. Besides that, they demanded that the Consulate General in San Francisco be closed and the consul general’s residence vacated. The US set a deadline of October 1 for diplomats from the consulate general in San Francisco to pack up and remove their belongings. The US Administration says that the facilities have been stripped of diplomatic immunity. Nonetheless, they are still Russia’s state property, except the trade mission office in New York City, leased by Moscow.


Newsline: Russia says does not rule out slashing US embassy in Moscow’s strength to 300 people or less

Russia’s Foreign Ministry does not rule out ordering the United States to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia to 300 people or below, the RIA news agency cited Mr Georgy Borisenko, the head of the ministry’s North America Department, as saying on Wednesday (Oct 11). In July, Moscow ordered the United States to cut the number of its diplomatic and technical staff working in Russia by around 60 per cent, to 455, amid a diplomatic row. The figure of 455 was meant to mirror the total number of Russian diplomats working in the United States, but also included Russian nationals working at the United Nations in New York, Mr Borisenko told the agency.


Newsline: ‘Batman’ game removes image of murdered Russian diplomat after online outcry

Gamers reacted with vitriol after a new chapter of Telltale Games’ Batman: The Enemy Within appeared to feature a likeness of the dead body of Andrei Karlov. In December 2016 Karlov was assassinated by a 22-year-old police officer at the opening ceremony of an exhibition in Ankara, Turkey, where he was serving as the Russian diplomat, following which a photo of his dead body went viral. Telltale Games have since responded to the incident, saying in a statement to Gamasutra: “An update to the game has been submitted this morning that will be removing the image across all platforms. We regret this incident occurred, and we are taking appropriate action internally to ensure that we continue to maintain our high standards in Production and Quality Assurance.”


Newsline: Abby Huntsman ‘grills’ her father, the U.S. ambassador to Russia

It might be unreasonable to expect a daughter to throw tough questions at her father in an interview. But let’s not pretend that a teary-eyed, kiss-on-the-forehead conversation is something it’s not. Fox News host Abby Huntsman interviewed her dad, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr., for a two-part piece that aired Friday on “Fox & Friends.” The segments were genuinely sweet, and opened a window to the personal side of a top diplomat’s life of globe-trotting public service. Abby Huntsman’s mother, Mary Kaye Huntsman, joined the second segment and talked about her decades-long commitment to supporting Jon Huntsman’s work around the world.


Newsline: Ambassador Huntsman arrives in Moscow, set to meet Putin

Newly minted U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman arrived in Moscow on Monday and presented his credentials to the Foreign Ministry, Russian news services reported. Huntsman, a former Utah governor who was confirmed last week by the Senate as America’s top envoy to Russian, is expected to introduce himself to President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. TASS, a Kremlin-run news outlet, said that Huntsman met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who said, “A number of topical issues on the bilateral agenda of Russian-U.S. relations were discussed.”