Diplo­mats headed home as Krem­lin re­sponds tit-for-tat

Regina Leader-Post - - NP - Matthew Bod­ner

MOSCOW • A pa­rade of am­bas­sadors passed through Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­istry on Fri­day to re­ceive for­mal protests and de­tails about Moscow’s plans to ex­pel more diplo­mats in a deep­en­ing cri­sis with the West.

The se­ries of meet­ings — an as­ton­ish­ing dis­play of en­voys ar­riv­ing one after the other — marked the lat­est twist in tit-for-tat moves fol­low­ing the March 4 nerve agent poi­son­ing of a for­mer Rus­sian dou­ble agent and his daugh­ter in Bri­tain.

Among those be­ing hauled in Fri­day was Cana­dian Am­bas­sador to Rus­sia John R. Kur.

Four Cana­dian diplo­mats are among those be­ing kicked out of the coun­try as the mas­sive ex­pul­sion of diplo­mats reaches a scale un­seen even at the height of the Cold War.

“We can con­firm that four Cana­dian diplo­mats have been de­clared per­son non grata by the Rus­sian govern­ment,” said Adam Austen, press sec­re­tary to For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land in a state­ment Fri­day morn­ing. “The well-be­ing of Global Af­fairs Canada em­ploy­ees is our pri­or­ity. We will be mak­ing ev­ery ef­fort to sup­port those af­fected and their fam­i­lies with their re­turn to Canada.”

Canada de­clared four Rus­sians per­sona non grata in sol­i­dar­ity with the U.K. ear­lier this week.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May is ac­cus­ing Rus­sia of us­ing a nerve agent to at­tempt the mur­der of a for­mer agent and his daugh­ter on Bri­tish soil. About a week after her govern­ment ex­pelled 23 Rus­sian diplo­mats — and had 23 U.K. reps sent away from Rus­sia in re­turn — more than 20 coun­tries an­nounced they would join the U.K. and col­lec­tively ex­pel more than 150 Rus­sian diplo­mats.

On Tues­day, shortly after the U.S. an­nounced it was ex­pelling 60 in­di­vid­u­als, Canada said it would be ex­pelling four, from the Rus­sian em­bassy in Ot­tawa and the con­sulate in Mon­treal. A state­ment from Free­land said that the in­di­vid­u­als had “used their diplo­matic sta­tus to un­der­mine Canada’s se­cu­rity or in­ter­fere in our democ­racy.”

An­other three ap­pli­ca­tions for new diplo­matic staff were be­ing de­nied.

Global Af­fairs Canada would not an­swer re­peated ques­tions this week about whether Rus­sia could im­me­di­ately apply to send more per­son­nel here, or whether all ap­pli­ca­tions for ac­cred­i­ta­tion were be­ing frozen out.

In the state­ment Fri­day con­firm­ing the tit-for-tat re­tal­i­a­tion, Austen re­peated that Canada con­sid­ers the at­tack in Sal­is­bury, U.K. to be “de­spi­ca­ble, heinous and reck­less.”

He called it a “di­rect at­tack on the rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der.”

Canada’s ac­tion on Tues­day was not “aimed at the Rus­sian peo­ple, with whom Canada has long and fruit­ful ties,” Austen said. “Canada re­mains com­mit­ted to di­a­logue and co-op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia on is­sues where we face common chal­lenges.”

On Fri­day, it was Moscow’s turn to an­swer in kind, or­der­ing a host of ex­pul­sions of diplo­mats.

It came after Moscow on Thurs­day an­nounced it would ex­pel 60 Amer­i­can diplo­mats and close the U.S. Con­sulate in St. Peters­burg.

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov warned Thurs­day that any ac­tion against Rus­sia’s diplo­matic corps would be “mir­rored” by Moscow.

More than a dozen Euro­pean am­bas­sadors were told to ap­pear at the min­istry in cen­tral Moscow Fri­day to re­ceive for­mal notes of protest and no­tices of ex­pul­sion orders.

The pro­ces­sion be­gan with the Ger­man, French and Ital­ian am­bas­sadors in the early af­ter­noon. They were greeted with scores of tele­vi­sion cam­eras perched by the loom­ing grey doors — which still bear the ham­mer and sickle in­signia of the Soviet Union — that lead into the halls of the Stal­in­ist sky­scraper the For­eign Min­istry calls home.

Rüdi­ger Frei­herr von Fritsch, the Ger­man am­bas­sador, stopped to en­gage briefly with jour­nal­ists from the state news chan­nel Ros­siya 24.

“I used to­day’s op­por­tu­nity to em­pha­size two things,” von Fritsch said.

“The first is that it is still in Ger­many’s in­ter­ests to have good re­la­tions with Rus­sia ... We re­main open to di­a­logue.”

Bri­tish Am­bas­sador Lau­rie Bris­tow, who has been sum­moned to the min­istry sev­eral times this week, did not com­ment on what tran­spired dur­ing the meet­ing.

But the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry said later in a state­ment that it was tak­ing spe­cial mea­sures against Bri­tain: the size of Bri­tish diplo­matic mis­sion in Rus­sia would be lim­ited to the size of Rus­sia’s mis­sion in Bri­tain. The num­bers were not spec­i­fied.

One by one, the diplo­mats’ cars pulled up the For­eign Min­istry’s drive­way for meet­ings that lasted about a half-hour. The line of black sedans was bro­ken only by the Swedish am­bas­sador, trav­el­ling in a sil­ver Volvo SUV.


Cana­dian Am­bas­sador to Rus­sia John R. Kur leaves the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry in Moscow on Fri­day. Four Cana­di­ans are among those be­ing kicked out of the coun­try as the mas­sive ex­pul­sion of diplo­mats reaches a scale un­seen even at the height of the...

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