Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Russia

Newsline: Russia declines to move embassy to Jerusalem

The Russian government will not be moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Russia’s ambassador said Thursday night, despite signals from Moscow that Russia has shifted its stance on the Israeli capital (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/258784). In 2017, Russia’s foreign ministry explicitly recognized the western portion of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. “We view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement. Hitherto, Russia had not recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and like most countries, maintained an embassy in the coastal city of Tel Aviv. Last year, following the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, Russia’s mission to Israel held its annual “National Day” celebration in Jerusalem, rather than in Tel Aviv for the first time ever. Despite these moves, however, on Thursday, Russian ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov told the Russian TASS outlet that his government would not be relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.


Newsline: NATO, Russian ambassadors to meet on Friday

NATO and Russian ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Friday, the Western military alliance said, with discussions likely to focus on the standoff over Ukraine and on nuclear weapons. This would be the ninth such NATO-Russia Council since the start of 2016. “Following consultations with Russia, we have agreed to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at ambassadorial level on Jan. 25, 2019 at NATO headquarters in Brussels,” a NATO official said on Monday.


Newsline: Russian ambassador sparks backlash with suggestion Guinea change constitution

A suggestion by the Russian ambassador to Guinea that President Alpha Conde change the constitution and run for a third term has set off a firestorm of criticism among Conde’s opponents a year ahead of a presidential election. Conde’s second and final term in office expires next year after a decade in power, but there is widespread speculation that he intends to try to amend the constitution to stay in office. Conde has refused to comment on the matter. In comments at a diplomatic ceremony broadcast on national television, Ambassador Alexander Bregadze lavished praise on the 80-year-old Conde, whom he called “legendary”, and said that rotating leaders was not necessarily a good thing. “Constitutions are no dogma, Bible or Koran,” he said. “It’s constitutions that adapt to reality, not realities that adapt to constitutions,” Bregadze said. “Guinea needs you today. And as the popular Russian saying goes, you don’t change horses at a river crossing.” The remarks drew criticism from Guinean opposition leaders and media, who accused Bregadze of sullying Guinea’s sovereignty, despite Russia’s regular injunctions to Western powers to stay out of other countries’ internal affairs. “We condemn this … position taken by the Russian ambassador,” Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, the spokesman for Guinea’s main opposition party, the UFDG, told Reuters. “Our constitution is clear about any third mandate and we will not accept an attempt to modify it.”


Newsline: 28 on trial in Turkey over Russian ambassador’s slaying

The trial of 28 people accused of roles in the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey opened Tuesday in Ankara, among them a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup the same year. An off-duty police officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, fatally shot Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital on Dec. 19, 2016. Other officers later shot and killed the gunman at the scene. Turkish prosecutors concluded that a network led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind Karlov’s slaying and the attack was meant to derail warming ties between Turkey and Russia. The charges include “violating the constitutional order,” ”membership in a terror organization” and “premeditated murder with the intention of causing terror.”


Newsline: US citizen held in Moscow on espionage charges seeks Irish consular assistance

A former US Marine arrested last week on espionage charges in Russia has sought Irish consular assistance. Canadian-born Paul Whelan is a US citizen and also holds an Irish passport. He was arrested while he was in Moscow to attend a wedding. The Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The Embassy of Ireland in Moscow has requested consular access to an Irish citizen currently detained in Russia after receiving a request for assistance. “The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will provide all possible and appropriate assistance in relation to this case.” Mr Whelan is also a British citizen and is seeking assistance from all embassies of countries of which he is a citizen.


Newsline: Russia allows U.S. ambassador to meet with detained American

The U.S. ambassador to Russia was allowed to meet Wednesday with a Michigan man imprisoned in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, the first contact U.S. officials have had with him since he was arrested last week at a hotel. Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who is now ambassador in Moscow, spoke with Paul Whelan at Lefortovo Detention Facility, a notorious prison that has held many spies and political prisoners in spartan conditions. State Department officials said Huntsman offered Whelan the embassy’s support and spoke by phone with Whelan’s family afterward. But many details of Whelan’s arrest and condition since then remain unknown. It is not even clear whether he has been formally charged with espionage. The State Department declined to say how long Huntsman spent with Whelan, whether their visit was in private or in the presence of prison authorities.


Newsline: Russian ambassador complains of ‘extreme spy mania’ in US

The Russian ambassador to the United States complained of “extreme spy mania” among Americans. Anatoly Antonov made the comment to reporters Friday while taking a swipe at the U.S. for expelling dozens of Russian diplomats earlier this year in response to the deadly poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in the United Kingdom. “They have to work in the conditions of extreme spy mania, which led to the largest expulsion of diplomats from the U.S. and closure of another consulate general. The workload for remaining staff of Russian foreign missions has increased,” Antonov said, according to state-run TASS.