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Archive for Russia

Newsline: Russian foreign ministry complains to UK, US and Canadian embassies for flying the rainbow flag

The foreign ministry in Russia made a formal complaint to the UK, US and Canadian embassies in Moscow for flying the rainbow LGBT+ Pride flag during Pride Month. Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” law bans any positive depiction of LGBT+ people. Anyone found guilty of sharing such information with minors can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison. A diplomatic source told TASS that the UK embassy in Moscow had received a protest note from the Russian foreign ministry for displaying the LGBT+ Pride flag, which it raised towards the end of June. (https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/07/29/russia-pride-flag-foreign-ministry-complaint-uk-us-canadian-embassy-rainbow-lgbt/) State Duma lawmaker Vasily Piskarev confirmed that protest notes had also been sent to the Canadian and US embassies in Moscow, which also displayed rainbow LGBT+ Pride flags.

Newsline: Russian Ambassador to UK says Moscow not interested in European states falling apart

Russia is not interested in disintegration of any European country, including in Scotland’s possible secession from the United Kingdom, Russian Ambassador to UK Anrei Kelin said in an interview with Sky News. Commenting on the report, published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday, Kelin said the document mentions Russia’s alleged attempt to meddle with the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, but “don’t provide any facts.” (https://tass.com/politics/1181077) “It does not make any sense to do this kind of operation. The issue of Scottish independence belongs to the people of Scotland and to the United Kingdom. Independence of any country – we have dealt with these processes, we know how difficult they are and we are not favourable towards disintegration processes in Europe,” reads the full transcript of the interview, posted on the embassy’s website. The Russian diplomat added that it would be hard for Scotland, which has a population of about 5.5 million people, to function as a small independent state. As an example, he cited the problem of depopulation in Baltic states, in particular Lithuania which has already lost 20% of its population. “We do not wish that Scotland leaves the United Kingdom. It is not in our interest at all,” Kelin added. The report published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday notes that Russian-UK relations cannot be improved under the current Russian leadership. The report also claims that Moscow had tried to interfere in the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence.

Newsline: Russia’s UK ambassador rejects coronavirus vaccine hacking allegations

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has rejected allegations that his country’s intelligence services tried to steal coronavirus vaccine research. “I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” Andrei Kelin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. On Thursday, UK security services said hackers targeting vaccine developers “almost certainly” operated as “part of Russian intelligence services”. Mr Kelin also rejected suggestions that Russia had interfered in UK politics. Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russians almost certainly sought to interfere in the 2019 UK election through illicitly-acquired documents. The papers, which emerged online, detailed UK-US trade discussions and were used by Labour in its election campaign. “I do not see any point in using this subject as a matter of interference,” Mr Kelin said. “We do not interfere at all. We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be [the] Conservative Party or Labour’s party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53458122) The interview comes days before a report into allegations of wider Russian interference into UK democracy is due to be published by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Newsline: Putin mocks U.S. embassy for flying rainbow flag

President Vladimir Putin on Friday mocked the U.S. embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to celebrate LGBT rights, suggesting it reflected the sexual orientation of its staff. His comments followed a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that included an amendment enshrining the definition of marriage specifically as a union between a man and a woman. Putin said the U.S. embassy’s move to raise the LGBT pride flag “revealed something about the people that work there”. “It’s no big deal though. We have spoken about this many times, and our position is clear,” said Putin, who has sought to distance Russia from liberal Western values and aligned himself with the Russian Orthodox Church. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-putin-rainbow/putin-mocks-u-s-embassy-for-flying-rainbow-flag-idUSKBN2442EQ) “Yes, we passed a law banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors. So what? Let people grow up, become adults and then decide their own destinies.” The legislation has been used to stop gay pride marches and detain gay rights activists.

Newsline: Russia to reopen embassy in Libya

Russia has decided to reopen its embassy in Libya although its head will temporarily be based in neighbouring Tunisia, Interfax news agency cited Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Friday. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-russia-diplomacy/russia-to-reopen-embassy-in-libya-ifax-cites-foreign-minister-idUSKBN2441AJ) Libya has been split since 2014, with the internationally recognised government based in the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest while military leader Khalifa Haftar in the country’s second city Benghazi rules the east. Russia evacuated its diplomats from Libya in October 2013 after an armed faction attacked its embassy in Tripoli. Lavrov, speaking at a meeting with the speaker of Libya’s pro-Haftar eastern parliament Aguila Saleh, reiterated Russia’s desire for a cessation of hostilities in Libya and the beginning of political dialogue.

Newsline: Russian embassy claims false US reports entailed threats against diplomats

False information about Russia and Afghanistan, published by the US media, has already led to direct threats against Russian diplomats, the Russian Embassy in Washington said on Saturday. “Baseless and anonymous accusations [published by nytimes] of Moscow as mastermind behind killing of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have already led to direct threats to the life of employees of the Russian Embassies in Washington D.C. and London,” the embassy said in a Twitter post. (https://tass.com/politics/1172293) New York Times reported on Friday that an unidentified unit of Russian military intelligence allegedly incited militants of the Taliban movemen to attack servicemen of the international coalition in Afghanistan. According to Russian diplomats, the paper has been inventing false stories in the absence of real reasons to blame Russia. Moreover, the embassy said the authors of the article “obviously lack information on cooperation between Russia and US on the Afghan peace process, on Syrian, North Korean, Venezuelan, Iranian agendas.” “We demand the relevant US authorities take effective measures to ensure the fulfillment of their international obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” the embassy said.

Newsline: Russian ambassador in Berlin summoned by German foreign ministry

Russia’s ambassador to Germany was summoned by the German Foreign Ministry, the RIA news agency reported, citing Russia’s embassy in Berlin. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-russia-diplomacy/russian-ambassador-in-berlin-summoned-by-german-foreign-ministry-ria-idUSKBN23P1YU) German federal prosecutors on Thursday said they had gathered enough evidence to suspect a Russian citizen of murdering a Georgian national, a former Chechen rebel, in Berlin last summer and added the killing was ordered by Russian authorities. German foreign minister Heiko Maas told reporters the Russian ambassador had been called in for talks, adding that the federal government “explicitly reserves the right to take further measures”. Russia’s ambassador in Berlin, Sergei Nechayev, later said the prosecutors’ accusation was “not supported by any facts or evidence”. “We consider the allegations issued against Russian state structures as groundless and unfounded,” Mr Nechayev said in a post on the embassy’s Facebook page. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53091298) He added that Moscow would respond without fail to any further steps taken by Germany.

Newsline: US Ambassador angered Greeks

Russia and the U.S. have been engaging in a war of words over Greece after American Ambassador to Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt made unfounded claims that Russia wants Greece to be in conflict with Turkey. However, it was a tweet made by Pyatt that has left Greek social media users not only confused, but angered. Pyatt retweeted US military Africa Command that alleges “New evidence of Russian aircraft active in Libyan airspace,” and added his own comment of “More evidence of Russian aircraft active in Libyan airspace as Russia continues to push for a strategic foothold on NATO’s southern flank south of Crete.” This of course outraged Greek Twitter users as Russia is not a threat to Greece, and by extension NATO’s southern flank close to Crete, but rather it is Turkey who frequently and openly threatens Greece’s sovereignty. (https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/06/19/what-did-the-us-ambassador-say-that-angered-so-many-greeks/) One twitter user reminded Pyatt that it was Turkey who publishes maps that shows the majority of Crete belonging to Turkey. While Ankara directly and openly announces that Greek islands, including the majority of Crete, belongs to Turkey, Pyatt as Ambassador to Athens is attempting to frame Russia as a threat to Greece – and Greek Twitter users were not happy about this.

Newsline: In Diplomatic Tit-For-Tat, Moscow Expels Two Czech Diplomats

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has declared two Czech diplomats personae non gratae in retaliation to a similar move by Prague several days ago. The ministry said in a June 15 statement that the Czech ambassador to Russia, Vitezslav Pivonka, had been officially informed that the two Czech diplomats, whose identities were not disclosed, had been ordered to leave Russia along with their family members in two days. “The ambassador was told that the move is a mirror response to the provocative action by a Prague official, which was undertaken without any grounds,” the ministry’s statement says. (https://www.rferl.org/a/moscow-summons-czech-ambassador-after-prague-expels-two-russian-diplomats/30671468.html) On June 5, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that his government had decided to expel the two staffers as a result of the so-called ricin affair, which he said turned out to be a fake incident sparked by an “internal struggle” between embassy staff. The Russian Embassy called the expulsions an “unfriendly step” that showed Prague is not interested in normalizing already tense relations between the two countries. The affair stems from Czech media reports that Andrei Konchakov, deputy director of the embassy’s Russian Center for Science and Culture, brought ricin from Russia to Prague in mid-March that was meant to be used in a plot to poison Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib and two other senior municipal officials, Ondrej Kolar and Pavel Novotny. Moscow at the time denied the reports as “fabrications.” The scandal broke out on April 26 when Respekt, a Czech investigative weekly, published a report quoting unnamed security sources as saying that a suspected Russian intelligence officer traveling on a diplomatic passport had arrived recently in Prague carrying the deadly toxin as part of an alleged poisoning plot. Czech media last month identified the suspected Russian intelligence operative as Konchakov.

Newsline: Czech Republic expels two Russian diplomats

The Czech Republic expelled two Russian diplomats over fabricated information on an alleged poisoning plot, bringing relations between the NATO member and its former Soviet-era master to a new low. The expulsions are the culmination of increasingly thorny diplomatic relations between Prague and Moscow. They worsened in April after media reported that several city leaders could be the target of Russian assassination attempts by poisoning. Russia rejected the allegations as absurd. On Friday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said a staff member at Russia’s embassy in Prague had made up the story about the planned attack as part of a conflict inside the mission and delivered it to Czech intelligence services. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-05/czechs-say-russian-diplomat-made-up-false-poisoning-plot-intel) By doing so, the diplomat further complicated Czech-Russian relations and damaged the reputation of the Russian Federation in the Czech Republic, Babis said. “Of course, we’re interested in good relations with all countries, but we’re a sovereign state and such actions on our soil are unacceptable,” he said in a televised briefing. Russia quickly denounced the Czech move and called it a “fabricated provocation” to which it will retaliate in a proportionate manner. “This hostile step, which was from the beginning based on unfounded media accusations, is evidence that Prague isn’t interested in normalizing Russian-Czech relations,” the embassy said on its website.