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Archive for Russia

Newsline: Trump Picks Jon Huntsman To Be U.S. Ambassador To Russia

The White House announced Tuesday night that President Trump intends to nominate former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah to be U.S. ambassador to Russia. If confirmed, Huntsman would take over a high-profile post amid ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the presidential election and potential ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. The White House made the announcement after it confirmed that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a separate, private conversation at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, that had not been previously disclosed. Huntsman has served as an ambassador before. Under President Barack Obama, he was U.S. ambassador to China, and under President George H.W. Bush, he was ambassador to Singapore. Huntsman also ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.


Newsline: Moscow’s Likely New Ambassador To U.S. ‘Tough’ And ‘Not That Easy To Work With’

Washington’s most notorious ambassador is going home. Sergei Kislyak, 66, has been due to return to Russia since last year, after serving throughout the Obama years. But his departure became the subject of fierce speculation when it emerged that Kislyak had communicated with key members of President Trump’s team before he took office. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Kislyak’s replacement has been approved by two parliamentary committees and is now awaiting formal appointment by President Vladimir Putin. His name is Anatoly Antonov, a 62-year-old career diplomat known as a shrewd arms control negotiator and hard-liner on America. Like Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Antonov belongs to a generation of Russian diplomats who started their careers during the Cold War. A native of Omsk, Siberia, Antonov worked his way through the ranks after graduating from the elite Moscow State Institute of International Relations with a doctorate in political science. What’s unusual about Antonov is that he also served as a deputy defense minister, which led the European Union to blacklist him for his role in the war in Ukraine, which began in 2014.


Newsline: Russia’s embassy compound in Syria hit by mortar shells

The Russian embassy in Syria has been targeted by shelling from foreign-backed militants operating in the capital Damascus. Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that two shells were fired at the diplomatic mission. One of the projectiles hit the embassy compound, while the other fell nearby. Earlier this year, the Russian embassy compound in the Syrian capital was the target of a pair of mortar shelling launched “precisely” from the terrorists-controlled Jobar area, which lies a few kilometers northeast of Damascus. The attacks had no casualties but inflicted some material damage on the building.


Newsline: US Embassy says no need for diplomatic status for Russian center in Serbia

The U.S. embassy in Belgrade said there’s no need to grant diplomatic status to the Russian staff of the controversial facility in Serbia that some consider a spy base but that Moscow insists is a disaster relief center. An embassy statement obtained Saturday by The Associated Press said its representatives visited the Nis center, 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Belgrade, this week at the invitation of the center’s management. “U.S. representatives were briefed on the current functioning of the center, but saw nothing in the activities that were shown which would indicate a need for diplomatic status,” the statement said. “The consistent demands for inviolability for the personnel and premises of the Center only raise question regarding long-term intentions for the facility.” Russia has denied speculation they are eavesdropping on American military interests in the Balkans from the so-called “Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center,” which was formed in 2011. Moscow says the center is only for humanitarian missions.


Newsline: Russia says too many U.S. spies work in Moscow embassy

Russia said on Friday that too many American spies operated in Moscow under diplomatic cover and said it might expel some of them to retaliate against the United States over Washington’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last year. The warning, delivered by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, reflects rising frustration in Moscow over the Trump administration’s refusal to hand back two Russian diplomatic compounds which were seized at the same time as some of Russia’s diplomats were sent home last year. Barack Obama, U.S. president at the time, ordered the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies in December, along with the seizure of the two diplomatic compounds, over what he said was the hacking of U.S. political groups during the 2016 presidential election, something Russia has flatly denied. President Vladimir Putin decided not to retaliate immediately at the time, saying he would wait to see what the new administration of Donald Trump would do. Zakharova complained on Friday that U.S. officials were not issuing visas to Russian diplomats to allow Moscow to replace the expelled employees and get its embassy back up to full strength.


Newsline: Russian Embassy Accuses Washington of Kidnapping

The Russian Embassy to the United States has accused Washington of “kidnapping” a man accused of cyber-fraud. Yury Martyshev, a Russian citizen, is being detained in a prison in Alexandria, Virginia, after he was extradited from Latvia last week, the state-run TASS news agency reported, citing a source at the Russian Embassy to the U.S. Martyshev is being held on charges of cyber fraud, after supposedly obtaining information of bank cardholders, the report says. The Russian Embassy in Washington accused the United States in a Facebook post of breaching a 1999 bilateral agreement between the two countries. “We consider this arrest as another case of kidnapping of a Russian citizen by the U.S. authorities in violation of the current bilateral agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,” the post said. This is not the first time Russia has accused the United States of kidnapping. Russian officials made similar accusations in the case of arms dealer Viktor Bout and attempted drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko. In 2015, the Russian Foreign Ministry went as far as to issue a warning to Russians traveling aboard, saying the U.S. authorities were on the “hunt” for Russians all over the world. On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to have their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.


Newsline: Russia says it’s patience with US is running thin in returning embassy assets

The Kremlin says its patience with a U.S. plan to return the Russian Embassy’s compounds is running out. President Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said that Russia has demonstrated a remarkable restraint by refraining from a tit-for-tat response to President Barack Obama’s decision in December to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shutter Russian compounds in Maryland and on Long Island, New York. Ushakov says while Russia has shown “unusual flexibility,” Moscow’s patience “has its limits.” He urged Washington to take action to “free Russia from the need to take retaliatory moves,” emphasizing that Moscow will feel obliged to respond if the matter isn’t settled. The Russians have been in regular contact with the U.S. about the two compounds, and are now determined to get them back. The Trump administration told Russian officials last month that it would consider handing the properties back over, if the Russians were to lift their freeze on construction of a new consulate in St. Petersburg, according to the Washington Post. The Russians implemented the construction freeze in response to U.S. sanctions that were imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. However, a senior adviser for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied the report. “The U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements,” said R.C. Hammond, who noted that the next senior-level meeting between the U.S. and Russia will be this month in St. Petersburg. Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told CBS News in June that the Kremlin was not interested in a U.S. government proposal that would allow the Russians to sell off the properties. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs even issued an ominous warning tweet demanding the return, saying “If the US doesn’t restore diplomatic immunity of Russian property, Russia will reply in kind regarding regarding US property in Russia.”