Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Russia

Newsline: Trump’s Russia Ambassador Wants to Come Home

Donald Trump’s man in Moscow may soon be coming home. Jon Huntsman, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Russia since 2017, is expected to leave his job by the end of the year and is seriously considering a run for governor of Utah, according to sources familiar with the situation. (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/06/huntsman-russia-utah/591247/) Huntsman’s potential interest in the governorship—which he previously held from 2004 to 2009—has been a point of speculation in Utah political circles for months. Earlier this year, both Salt Lake City daily newspapers reported that he might be eyeing the 2020 gubernatorial race. But Huntsman’s allies say the prospect has gotten more serious than many realize.

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Newsline: The EU’s Embassy In Russia Was Hacked But The EU Kept It A Secret

The European Union’s embassy in Moscow was hacked and had information stolen from its network, according to a leaked internal document seen by BuzzFeed News. An ongoing “sophisticated cyber espionage event” was discovered in April, just weeks before the European Parliament elections — but the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign and security policy agency, did not disclose the incident publicly. (https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/albertonardelli/eu-embassy-moscow-hack-russia) Russian entities are believed to be behind the hack, a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told BuzzFeed News. The EEAS confirmed an incident had taken place and, asked whether the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini knew about the incident, said that EEAS hierarchy had been informed. “We have observed potential signs of compromised systems connected to our unclassified network in our Moscow Delegation. Measures have been taken and the investigation is in progress — at this stage we cannot comment further,” a spokesperson said. According to the leaked document, the initial attack took place in February 2017, but it was only detected in April this year. An analysis of the hack found activity affecting at least two computers and concluded that information had been stolen.

Newsline: Russia summons Spanish ambassador over ‘old enemy’ comment

Russia summoned Spain’s ambassador to Moscow on Tuesday after acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell referred to the country as an “old enemy”, the Russian foreign ministry said on May 28. Borrell told Spanish newspaper El Periodico last week: “Russia, our old enemy, is once again saying, ‘here I am,’ and has returned as a threat, and China is also presenting itself as a rival.” The ministry said Borrell’s comment “damages the relations between Spain and Russia, the mutual perception of bilateral relations as friendly, based on a partnership and mutually-beneficial.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-spain-diplomacy/russia-summons-spanish-ambassador-over-old-enemy-comment-idUSKCN1SY1W6) The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed Russia’s decision to summon the envoy and criticized it. “Russia’s reaction has surprised negatively. We believe they have overreacted, interpreting in a bilateral way some reflections over global geopolitics made from a European perspective,” a Spanish Foreign Ministry official said.

Newsline: Rusal Names Controversial Ex-Ambassador to Head Guinea Office

United Co. Rusal named a controversial former Russian ambassador to Guinea to head its unit in the West African nation, raising local fears of Russian influence on next year’s presidential elections. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-25/rusal-names-controversial-ex-ambassador-to-head-guinea-office) The aluminum giant announced the appointment on May 24 of Alexander Bregadze, who served as ambassador to Guinea for eight years until March. Bregadze sparked a public outcry in January when he praised Guinea’s President Alpha Conde in a speech on state TV as “legendary” and said constitutions aren’t dogma and can be changed. Guinea is among several African countries with vast mineral wealth where Russia has pushed to expand its military and political influence in recent years. Bregadze’s comments came as Guinea’s opposition and civil-society groups have repeatedly expressed concern that 81-year-old Conde may try to amend the constitution and run for a third term. While Conde is due to step down in 2020, his refusal to address any questions about his intentions has fueled widespread speculation he plans to stay in office.

Newsline: Venezuelan ambassador to Moscow denies rumors about Russian military base

Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa has denied rumors that Russia may set up a military base in the country. “We hear the media talking about it. I don’t know where they get such information,” the ambassador said at a briefing on May 21. “No one ever – at least no officials from either our cabinet or the Russian government – mentioned plans to set up a [Russian] military base in Venezuela,” he said. (http://tass.com/defense/1059255) “You should ask the Americans how many military bases they have around the world. There are seven of them near our country’s borders, in Colombia,” Faria Tortosa added. He also said that Caracas and Moscow had “good relations in many areas, including defense cooperation.” “Cooperation will continue,” the Venezuelan ambassador said.

Newsline: Russia expels two Swedish diplomats

Russia has expelled two Swedish diplomats from Moscow as part of a reciprocal move against Stockholm, Sweden said on May 8. Relations between the two countries have been strained in the last few years over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and sabre-rattling in the Baltic. “Sweden has previously made the decision that one Russian diplomat would not have his visa renewed and following that, we have declined Russian applications for diplomatic visas,” a Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman said. “Russia has answered by asking two Swedish diplomats to leave Russia.” The spokeswoman declined to give further details. (https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-russia-sweden-diplomats-idUKKCN1SE1SZ) The ministry said in December that Moscow had asked one of its diplomats to leave Russia after Stockholm rejected two Russian applications for diplomatic visas. Asked in Moscow whether the Kremlin had expelled two Swedish diplomats in response to Stockholm’s visa rejection, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the question did “not require us to comment”. “Without getting into details, I can say that the answer is contained in the question,” TASS news agency quoted her as saying. “I am talking about the phrase ‘in response’,” she said, declining to provide further details.

Newsline: Venezuela’s top diplomat says CIA behind attempts to overthrow Maduro’s government

There is a plan made by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) behind attempts to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the country’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said at a press conference in Moscow on May 6. “There is a whole plan made up by the CIA and the Venezuelan opposition to overthrow the Maduro government and take control of our country’s natural resources, which belong to the people as a result of a socialist revolution,” Arreaza said. “This is what we are trying to prevent. We don’t want the Venezuelan people to suffer,” he added. (http://tass.com/world/1057127) The Venezuelan top diplomat pointed out that the country’s authorities had demanded US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo enter dialogue with them. “Don’t use force, don’t stage coups for we have democratic institutions and the time has come for diplomacy. The US presidential administration should allow the Venezuelan opposition to come to the negotiating table with us,” Arreaza said.