Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Russia

Newsline: Russia summons Israeli ambassador over Syrian airstrikes

Russia, the main military backer of the Syrian government, has summoned Israeli Ambassador Gary Koren for questioning over recent Israeli airstrikes on Syrian state forces, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. Russia demands Israel more closely communicate its military plans in the region to avoid such incidents, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in comments carried by state news agency RIA Novosti. Israeli warplanes conducted air raids in Syria on Friday, with Syrian state forces retaliating using anti-aircraft weapons, in one of the more serious exchanges of fire in the six years of Syria’s multi-sided civil war. Russia has maintained close relations with Israel despite the decades-long animosity between Syria and the neighbouring Jewish state, including over Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. Israel has about a million Russian-speaking residents. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month in Moscow for talks that focused on the Syrian conflict. Netanyahu warned Putin about Iranian involvement in the conflict. Like Syria’s regime, Iran is also a regional rival of Israel but an ally of Russia.


Newsline: Russian Embassy in Damascus Damaged by Militants

One of the buildings that belong to the Russian Embassy in Damascus was damaged as a result of a Sunday shelling by militants, Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak said. “We have a building, which we temporarily do not use and it is located close to the epicenter of the yesterday’s armed clashes. As they told me, the blast wave had broken the window glass there. However, nobody is currently living there except for a local keeper,” Kinshchak told reporters. According to Kinshchak, this building was previously used and it was planned to station the consular office there, however, this building is located close to the district controlled by illegal armed groups. “We were forced to temporarily abandon the idea of using this building… all the employees moved to the main building of the embassy,” the ambassador added.


Newsline: Cause of death of Russian ambassador to UN revealed

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations who collapsed suddenly while at his embassy in Manhattan died from a heart attack, it was confirmed. No foul play is suspected in the death of Vitaly Churkin, according to a senior official briefed by the medical examiner’s office. The 64-year-old diplomat fell unconscious with a “cardiac condition” around 9.30am on Monday February 20 and was rushed to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital. However, despite attempts to revive him with CPR he was pronounced dead shortly after 11am. A post mortem was performed on Churkin last month, but the death required further study.


Newsline: Syrian Militants Shell Damascus District Hosting Russian Embassy

Armed groups shelled on Friday the district of al-Mazraa in Damascus, where the Russian embassy is located. One rocket landed in the district, exploding some 160 yards away from the embassy. The civil war in Syria has been lasting for around six years with government troops fighting against numerous opposition factions and terror organizations such as al-Nusra Front and Daesh. The nationwide Syrian ceasefire regime was introduced on December 30, 2016. Terrorist organizations are not part of the ceasefire. Moscow has been conducting a campaign in Syria since September 30, 2015, at President Bashar Assad’s request.


Newsline: Next US ambassador to Russia named

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman accepted the offer of US President Donald Trump to become the next US ambassador to Russia. On Wednesday, US media reported citing sources in the administration that Huntsman was offered a diplomatic position in Russia. Huntsman, who has been described by one of the sources as a “brilliant guy” and a “tough” person and the one who could understand Trump’s policy, has accepted the proposal of the president, the CNN broadcaster said, citing senior administration officials. Apart from being the governor of Utah in 2005-2009, the official used to serve as country’s ambassador to Singapore and China in 1992-1993 and 2009-2011, respectively.


Newsline: Russia’s top diplomat at center of Trump controversy

The Trump administration’s back-to-back controversies over its Russian ties now have at least one thing in common: Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He has emerged as the central figure in the investigations into Trump advisers’ connections with Russia. In a matter of weeks, contact with Kislyak led to the firing of a top adviser to the president and, on Thursday, prompted calls for the attorney general to resign. Separately, a White House official confirmed Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December for what the official called a brief courtesy meeting. Flynn was pushed out of the White House last month after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call. At issue Thursday were two meetings between Sessions and Kislyak — one in July and another in September, at the height of concern over Russia’s involvement in hacking of Democratic officials’ emails accounts. Intelligence officials have since concluded Moscow ordered the hacks to tilt the election toward Trump. In his confirmation hearing, the Alabama Republican denied having contact with any Russian officials, neglecting to mention the meetings with Kislyak, which were first reported by the Washington Post. The Russian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment. Kislyak, who was appointed to his post in 2008, is regularly spotted walking around town, heading to and from meetings. Early in his tenure, he often opened the doors of the Russian Embassy, hosting dinners for foreign policy professionals, Pentagon officials, journalists and Capitol Hill staffers. Those who have attended the events describe him as a gracious and amiable diplomat, although perhaps not as polished — nor as confrontational — as his more famous boss, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kislyak, 66, has bounced between the United States and Russia for most of his long career.


Newsline: Russian embassy shrugs off US uproar

The Russian embassy to the United States sayd it was in regular contact with “US partners” after the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had failed to disclose meetings with Russia’s ambassador. Citing Justice Department officials, the Post said Sessions spoke twice last year with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador, while he was still a US senator. US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on Sessions to resign over the issue. The question of how much contact there was between the campaign of President Donald Trump and Russia prior to his election has dominated the early days of his presidency along with allegations from US intelligence officials that Moscow ran an influence campaign to try to sway the election’s outcome. Russia categorically denies meddling and Russian officials say the issue is being deliberately used by Trump’s opponents to derail chances of a swift warming in US-Russia ties. “The embassy doesn’t comment on numerous contacts with local partners, which occur on a daily basis in line with diplomatic practice,” Russian embassy spokesman Nikolai Lakhonin told Russia’s Interfax news agency, when asked to comment on meetings between Sessions and Kislyak. Sessions has denied discussing details of the US presidential campaign with Russian officials. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired last month after he discussed US sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.