LIVE UPDATES: About a million people rallied in Grozny in support of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, calling the Russian opposition “traitors.”
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
–The Non-Hybrid War
–Kashin Explains His âLetter to Leadersâ on âFontanka Officeâ
–TV Rain Interviews Volunteer Fighter Back from Donbass
–âI Was on Active Dutyâ: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
According to AP, US spokesman Mark Toner explained that in fact the US action was a form of retaliation for recent closure of American centers in Russia, and the harassment of diplomatic staff:
“We are prepared to take further appropriate measures if there are additional efforts to impede our diplomatic and consular activities in Russia,” spokesman Mark Toner warned.
“This action is being taken in response to continued Russian interference with our diplomatic and consular operations in Russia, including, but not limited to, widespread harassment of our personnel, as well as the forced closure of the American Center in Moscow and 28 American Spaces throughout Russia,” Toner said.
“This does not affect Russia’s formal diplomatic operations, including its embassy, consulates general or its cultural center in Washington.”
Yury Melnik, press attache for the Russian Embassy in Washington, claimed there was “no basis” for the closure and that it was the US “worsening the atmosphere for bilateral relations with such actions” and characterized it as “an unfriendly gesture,” failing to acknowledge the Russian harassment of Americans and closure of American facilities that had preceded it.
According to US Embassy spokesman Will Stevens, the American Center and 28 of its affiliates were closed, RBC.ru reported.
The incidents are all signs, U.S. officials and experts said, that aggressive, Soviet-era counterintelligence tactics are back in fashion in Russia.
The number of incidents targeting American diplomats in Moscow has increased in recent years to levels not seen since the Cold War, officials said.
Taken together, they paint an escalating pattern of intimidation and harassment that is believed to be led by Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB.
“Across Mission Russia, employees face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War,” the Office of Inspector General wrote. But the section on harassment of US staff was kept classified.
ABC said Russians who made contact with Americans were also affected:
Russians who work or meet with the embassy have also been intimidated, U.S. officials said. Several had been warned by shadowy individuals to discontinue their contacts with American officials or face unspecified hardships. Russians authorities have also stepped up pressure on programs run by the U.S. embassy.
In the last year, a number of US professors and students taking part in exchanges have also been expelled abruptly.
The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed:
It is commonly known that it is precisely the US which has unleashed sanctions aggression against Russia and is carrying out wide-scale Russophobic propaganda throughout the world.
Even before US sanctions imposed over the annexation of Crimea, there were expulsions of Americans, and other actions such as the end of adoption of Russian orphans by Americans. Despite the “re-set” of US-Russian relations in the first term of the Obama Administration, the US issued the “Magnitsky List” in 2013 of sanctioned officials involved in murder and other serious offenses to address serious ongoing Russian human rights violations after the Jackson-Vanik amendment was abolished. Russia responded by banning US officials, expelling USAID and forcing other US philanthropies to leave and ending other exchanges, culminating in a list of “undesirable organizations.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Translation: Grozny now.
The official slogan of the meeting was “In unity is our strength.” Chechen Mufti Salakh Mezhiev spoke along with Senator Adam Delimkhanov and Dzhambulat Umarov, minister of the Chechen Republic for national policy, external liaison, print and information.
Translation: Now that’s glory. Rally in Grozny — the grandmothers are holding portraits of “Traitors” made by Moscow Glavplakat [poster printer]. They didn’t forget us, thanks. I see I’m with a cigarette.
“The ROC does not take part in political life, but every Christian must be an honest citizen of his fatherland. We cannot help but testify to the successes which our country reached in the last 15 years — the growth of the economy, the improvement of the standard of living and much more. But unfortunately, far from everyone in our country rejoices at the undoubtable successes of our state and they try to push us into the abyss of economic chaos. These forces places themselves outside the legal field. Speaking of democracy and freedom., they take the side of those who brought chaos to many prosperous states. We say a decisive no to those who want the collapse of our Motherland, and we do not reconcile ourselves with attempts to destroy our beloved Motherland, no matter what slogans it is covered up with.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick