Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Russia

Newsline: Russia says alleged spies in Netherlands were testing embassy IT systems

Russia’s foreign ministry said four Russians accused by the Netherlands of hacking were traveling with technical equipment intended to test their embassy’s IT systems in the Hague, Interfax news agency reported on Monday. Dutch authorities said last week they had disrupted a Russian hacking mission when they caught four men in April with spying equipment at a hotel next to the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.



Newsline: North Korean diplomat handling nuclear issues arrives in Russia

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who handles nuclear weapons issues and negotiations with the United States, arrived in Moscow on Saturday on a two-country trip that has already taken her to China. According to the Russian Embassy in North Korea, while in Moscow Choe will take part in bilateral consultations with Russia on Monday, and three-way talks including China on Tuesday, with the situation on the Korean Peninsula set to be on the agenda. The trilateral meeting will involve Choe, Russian Vice Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, who is Russia’s top negotiator on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, who doubles as China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs. During her trip, Choe is expected to seek support from China and Russia, both traditional allies of North Korea, as Pyongyang envisions advancing denuclearization talks with Washington.


Newsline: Russian diplomat warns US against fueling tensions between nuclear states

Moscow warns Washington that intentionally worsening the situation in relations between the nuclear states is a slippery slope, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. “We are watching with regret US authorities’ continuous attempts to mar the atmosphere of Russian-American relations with new portions of unfounded accusations against Russia, that some other NATO countries hasten to repeat at Washington’s command,” the diplomat said. “Canada and those European countries that are loyally servicing American claims to global hegemony should also think about this,” he added. By accusing Russia of cyberattacks, Washington is trying to save the myth of Russia’s US election meddling and create more pretexts for anti-Russian sanctions, Sergei Ryabkov said.


Newsline: Trump’s ambassador to NATO sets off diplomatic incident with a nuclear edge

The U.S. ambassador to NATO set off alarm bells Tuesday when she suggested that the United States might “take out” Russian missiles that U.S. officials say violate a landmark arms control treaty. Although Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison’s comments were somewhat ambiguous, arms control experts said they could be interpreted to mean a preemptive strike. Such a move could lead to nuclear war. Only after the comments drew a furious response from the Russian Foreign Ministry did Hutchison clarify on Twitter that she “was not talking about preemptively striking Russia.” But the diplomatic damage was already done.


Newsline: US embassy, consulates in Russia plan to issue up to 200,000 visas in 2019

The US embassy and consulates plan to issue up to 200,000 visas across Russia in 2019, the embassy’s Minister Counsellor Michael Yoder told reporters in Vladivostok on Tuesday. “We did 250,000 in 2016. I don’t have yet figures for 2018, but I’m convinced that next year we will do about 150,000 to 200,000 visas across the country,” he said. According to the embassy official, the US visa denial rate in Russia is about 10%. On August 23, 2017, the US embassy suspended nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia as Moscow demanded that the US diplomatic staff in Russia should be reduced to 455 following the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. Visa operations resumed on September 1, 2017, in Moscow and on December 11 in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. In March 2018, the US consulate in St. Petersburg was closed as a tit-for-tat response to the closing of the Russian consulate general in Seattle.


Newsline: Russia summoned South Korea’s ambassador

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned South Korea’s ambassador in Moscow on Monday and demanded that Seoul allow a Russian vessel to leave South Korea’s port of Busan, the ministry said. The ‘Sevastopol’ has been illegally held at the port, the ministry said without adding what had served as the pretext for the alleged detention.


Newsline: North Korea denies running casino out of Moscow embassy

North Korea is denying media reports that it was hosting an illegal casino in its embassy in Moscow. Earlier this month, Russia media reported on a series of raids on 15 underground gambling dens in the Moscow region. Russian investigators believe the illegal operation had been around since May 2016, generating profits of hundreds of millions of rubles each month. These illegal operations were reportedly connected to licensed sports betting operator Panorama, which operates the GreenBet, UnionBet and Winline brands. Over 100 individuals were arrested, including Anton Bazhanov, a reputed high-ranking member of the local “criminal community.” On Wednesday, the Tass news agency quoted a law enforcement source saying that one of the underground casinos was located “on the premises of the North Korean embassy” and that it catered to a VIP clientele of diplomats and lawyers. Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted other law enforcement sources saying they’d been denied access to the premises by embassy staff who cited sovereign territory rights. Following these reports, a North Korean spokesperson denied the allegations, telling Tass: “We know nothing about this.”