Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Russian diplomat, Tajik ambassador meet over Moscow protest

A Russian deputy foreign minister and Tajikistan’s ambassador have met to discuss the unrest in Moscow in which about 90 Tajiks were detained. On Wednesday hundreds of Tajiks protested outside a Moscow shopping center where security guards had severely beaten a Tajik worker. Police said 90 people were detained. Tajiks and migrants from other predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet republics flock to Russia for work, typically in low-paying jobs or manual work. Many Slavic Russians look down on the Central Asians and ethnic tensions are often high. On Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met Tajik Ambassador Imomuddin Sattorov and “gave special attention to the incident occurring at the shopping center,” a ministry statement said.



Newsline: Russia retaliates by getting really petty with US Embassy staff

The latest casualty of the petty back-and-forth behavior between Russia and the U.S. is parking spaces for U.S. diplomats. Russia’s state-owned television channel Rossiya 24 reported “that parking spaces outside the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg had been painted over with a pedestrian crossing,” According to the Associated Press, “and special parking signs had been removed outside the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, near the Ural Mountains.” A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow declined to comment on the matter, the AP reported. Staff reductions as well as limited diplomatic entry points could come in the near future, and on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia would be reduced to “full parity” to coincide with Russian counterparts in the U.S.


Newsline: Outgoing US Ambassador to Russia Has Mixed Feelings, Hopes for Better Relations

The outgoing United States Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, just weeks before his departure, has said he has mixed feelings about the state of the U.S.-Russia relationship but holds out hope for progress. In a joint interview in Moscow with the Russian Services of VOA and RFE/RL, Tefft expressed remorse for a lack of progress in helping resolve the conflict in Ukraine, which sent U.S.-Russia relations spiraling down to the worst level since the Cold War.“I’m sorry we didn’t have greater progress in resolving the Ukrainian problem. Because, I think that’s one of the core issues that needs to be addressed,” said Tefft, who came out of retirement to become ambassador after relations plummeted. Tefft said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it best when describing the current U.S.-Russia relationship during his April meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. “He was very very clear, very blunt. He said that, you know, that the relationship is very bad. We have no trust. We need to work on this to improve it. There are some possibilities that are out there. But, we’ve got to try to work hard to do it. Now, since then we’ve had some other setbacks,” noted Tefft. In the latest tit-for-tat, the U.S. closed the Russian consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, D.C., and New York City after the Kremlin ordered the U.S. Embassy to reduce its staff by 755 personnel. The U.S. was forced to limit non-immigrant visa processing to its Moscow Embassy, slowing down processing times for Russians hoping to visit the U.S.


Newsline: Russian Embassy in London Says: ‘Digital Sh*t’ Happens

Fresh off the heels of describing Mount Everest as part of Russia, the Russian Embassy in London pointed the finger at a controversial episode in Britain’s past. The Russian Embassy in Britain on Monday in a tweet described Mount Everest, wedged between Nepal and China, as part of Russia. The post was later deleted, but not before social media users had made their quips referencing Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. “On appropriation of Everest. Digital sh*t happens,” the Embassy said in a new Tweet on Tuesday. “For [example], one might have heard that someone’s young husband led [the British] expedition to Tibet.”


Newsline: Four Detained After Bottle Thrown at US Embassy in Moscow

Four men have been detained in central Moscow after a bottle was thrown at the gates of the U.S. Embassy, an unidentified law enforcement official told the state-run RIA news agency on Friday. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson was cited as saying that the incident, which took place late on Sept. 7, did not cause any injuries. This is the second act of vandalism against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia in less than two weeks as relations between the countries have worsened after Russia ordered the United States to cut its diplomatic staff, and Washington in turn closed Russia’s San Francisco consulate and several other annexes. On Aug. 29, the St. Petersburg consulate building’s facade and a nearby vehicle were damaged when unknown persons splashed it with paint.


Newsline: Russian diplomat slams US attempts to justify ‘illegal intrusions’ into diplomatic offices

Illegal intrusions into Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States cannot and should not be justified, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “Attention has been focused on improper attempts of the United States’ officials to whitewash high-handed seizure of the Russian diplomatic property on September 2 in an attempt to attach a veneer of legality to it,” Zakharova said. “Nevertheless, there is not and cannot be any acquittal to these outrageous steps.” “What the US Department of State calls … ‘inspections’ was actually an illegal intrusion into the Russian diplomatic facilities, coupled with their searches from cellars to attics,” she added. “We want to emphasize that the buildings, which belong to our state, were not sealed off but were seized. American ‘plainclothes agents’ still remain inside. Armed police officers are on duty on the perimeter of the adjacent area,” Zakharova said. “Inside the offices of the consulate general in San Francisco, the Americans are carrying out some ambiguous work. They are sawing and scraping something, as far as we understand, they are incurring considerable damage to the historical interior,” she said. “US special agents have been strolling on the roof. In other words, they are behaving like intruders.”


Newsline: US Ambassador Defends Russian Diplomatic Property Expulsions

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, has defended the expulsion of Russian diplomats from seized consular property in the United States amid an increasing strain in diplomatic ties. In a joint interview Wednesday in Moscow with the Russian services of VOA News and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Tefft rejected statements in Russian media that the seizing of diplomatic property in San Francisco, New York and Washington was done in what Russian President Vladimir Putin called a “boorish and unprecedented” fashion. Putin accused U.S. authorities of threatening to “break down the entrance door” of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco after Washington set a September 2 deadline for the premises to be evacuated. “Nobody broke down doors. Nobody put undue pressure on people. It was all done very, very carefully — and, in compliance with the Vienna Conventions,” Tefft said. Speaking in China on Tuesday, Putin said, “Let’s see how well the much-praised American legal system works in practice.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a telephone call on Wednesday that Russia had initiated legal proceedings for what was a “violation of international law.”