World 'Twisted': Russia brands US an 'unfriendly' country
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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has branded the United States an “unfriendly” nation, putting a new legal stamp on tensions with Washington in advance of high-level meetings with President Joe Biden’s administration.
Russian officials included the Czech Republic on the list alongside the United States, a pairing that points to last month’s dispute over anas the cause of the designation. Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek ordered Moscow to withdraw dozens of officials from the Russian Embassy in Prague, a crackdown that could force Russia to slash its spy presence at an embassy widely perceived as a regional hub for Russian intelligence operations.
Kremlin-imposed cuts at US Embassy leave thousands adrift
MOSCOW (AP) — Under Kremlin orders, the U.S. Embassy has stopped employing Russians, forcing the embassy to cut its consular staff by 75% and limit many of its services. The order went into effect on Wednesday, bringing the sharply deteriorating U.S.-Russia relationship to an intensely personal level. Because of the cuts, the embassy can offer only very limited services, such as considering “life-and-death” visa applications. That leaves Russian businessmen, exchange students and romantic partners adrift because they won't be able to obtain visas. Even Americans will be unable to register their newborns or renew their passports.
“This is their twisted reading of the reality,” a Czech official told the Washington Examiner. “They don’t understand [that the reason] why we did that was a reaction to their malicious behavior. What they are trying to say or what they are thinking is that we did it because the Americans told us to do it. That's why you see the two countries being designated as hostile.”
Kulhanek’s order was the third diplomatic volley in a controversy that erupted after Czech officials blamed Russia for a 2014 explosion that killed two civilians. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis expelled 18 Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover, and Russia countered by ordering 20 Czech officials to leave Russia. Babis’s government deemed that an improper overreaction, given that only a handful of Czech officials remained in the country, so his government slashed the far larger Russian presence by a comparable degree.
Russia Adds U.S. to ‘Unfriendly Country’ List
The list, composed only of the U.S. and Czech Republic, is seen by Russian officials as a way to punish Washington for increased acts of aggression.The new order from Moscow approves "the attached list of foreign states committing unfriendly actions against the Russian Federation, citizens of the Russian Federation or Russian legal entities," according to a translation. Despite an extensive group of candidate nations with which Moscow has had high-profile grievances in recent years, the final list includes only two countries: the U.S.
“The Czech Republic will be allowed to hire no more than 19 Russian nationals to work for its embassy, and the United States, not a single one,” Russian state media outlet TASS said in aon the designations.
That announcement comes one day after Moscow announced that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting next week in Iceland. That meeting could set thefor Biden to with Putin in June.
Russia’s “unfriendly” designation coincided with a separate Russian move to freeze the Russian bank accounts of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S. government-backed outlet that has been designated as a foreign agent. Russian law defines a foreign agent as anyone who enjoys “even a minimal amount of funding from any foreign sources, governmental or private, and engage[s] in ‘political activity,’” as Human Rights Watch, saying that “political activity” covers “any attempt by an independent group to influence public policy, regardless of the group’s mandate.”
Cedar Rapids tries to turn city of stumps into tree oasis
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Until one afternoon last August, Cedar Rapids had always been a lush, leafy island surrounded by a sea of corn and soybeans, with its giant oaks, sycamores and other trees towering over the community’s neighborhoods and providing a shady refuge from Iowa’s steamy summer heat. It took 45 minutes to shred nearly all of those trees, as a rare storm called a derecho plowed through the city of 130,000 in eastern Iowa with 140 mph (225 kph) winds and left behind a jumble of branches, downed powerlines and twisted signs. © Provided by Associated Press A large tree stump sits in front of homes, Friday, April 30, 2021, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly rejected Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s claim that the organization is “a mouthpiece for U.S. state propaganda,” as she put it Thursday.
"RFE/RL's journalists in Russia are patriotic Russian nationals — not Americans," Fly. "They provide independent news and information so their fellow citizens do not 'get used to untruth and ... live in lies,' as one of these journalists recently put it."
Likewise, Russian officials slapped the foreign agent label on a Russian-language website founded by journalists who quit their jobs at another company “after the appointment of a pro-Kremlin editor-in-chief sparked an exodus from their previous employer,”the Moscow Times, which is partnered with the now-designated website. “The news website has vowed to keep alive Vedomosti’s tradition of independent and objective journalism.”
The media moves are part of a campaign to dominate the information space in Russia, according to analysts. “The goal is to suggest that any investigative journalism is backed by foreign money, performed by foreigners, and thus suspect,”Andras Toth-Czifra tweeted. “This fits into the larger trend of framing everything, from regional protests to smart voting or even elite dissent, as a national security issue.”
Russia's Foreign Minister Shrugs Off Concerns of Military's Arctic Expansion: 'It's Our Territory'
Russia has also declared its intention to set navigation rules, and introduce foreign ships and pilots along the Northern Sea Route, a stretch of Arctic sea shelf that runs from Norway to Alaska. In response, the U.S. and NATO have accused Russia of "exploiting" territories and attempting to exercise too much control in the region.For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below. © Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press An officer speaks on walkie-talkie as the Bastion anti-ship missile systems take positions on the Alexandra Land island near Nagurskoye, Russia, Monday, May 17, 2021.
The parallel branding of the United States andsends a similar message of a foreign “conspiracy against Russia,” according to the Czech official, who expressed uncertainty about whether Russian officials believe themselves or are making these arguments for domestic consumption.
“It can be both,” the Czech official said. “You might have some people who believe this twisted narrative and others who use it. … for how many of them is it a belief and for how many of them is it just a cynical calculus, that’s questions I don’t have an answer for."
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Where did the Democratic concerns about Russia go? .
With President Joe Biden now rolling over for Russian President Vladimir Putin on command, one must wonder: Where have the Democratic Russia-hawks gone? © Provided by Washington Examiner For all his talk about standing up to Putin and supporting NATO, Biden decided to waive congressionally-mandated sanctions that would have made it more difficult to complete the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. It’s a big favor for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but it’s even better for Putin as it makes Europe more dependent on Russia for energy while squeezing out Ukraine.