Six In The Morning Sunday 3 September 2023


Threats, insults, and Kremlin ‘robots’: How Russian diplomacy died under Putin

By Sergey Goryashko, Elizaveta Fokht and Sofiya Samokhina
BBC Russian

Russia’s diplomats were once a key part of President Putin’s foreign policy strategy. But that has all changed.

In the years leading up to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, diplomats lost their authority, their role reduced to echoing the Kremlin’s aggressive rhetoric.

BBC Russian asks former Western diplomats, as well as ex-Kremlin and White House insiders, how Russian diplomacy broke down.

Short presentational grey line

In October 2021, US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland went to a meeting at the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow. The man across the table was Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, whom Ms Nuland had known for decades and always got along with.

Airstrike in Khartoum kills 20 civilians, activists in Sudan say

Artillery and rocket fire also reported as fighting between armed forces and paramilitaries shows no sign of abating

Residents of Khartoum woke to artillery and rocket fire on Sunday, hours after an airstrike in the south of the city killed at least 20 civilians including two children, according to Sudanese activists.

“The death toll from the aerial bombardment” in southern Khartoum “has risen to 20 civilian fatalities,” according to a statement by the neighbourhood’s resistance committee. It is one of many volunteer groups that used to organise pro-democracy demonstrations and now provide assistance to families caught in the crossfire between the army and paramilitary fighters.

In an earlier statement, it said the victims included two children, and that more fatalities went unrecorded as “their bodies could not be moved to the hospital because they were severely burned or torn to pieces in the bombing”.

Spying and SabotageHow Russia Is Paralyzing Europe’s Peace Organization

The long-established Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is threatening to disintegrate because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Critics claim Moscow is infiltrating the organization and sabotaging its work in ensuring European peace and stability.

The threat was hardly veiled: The diplomat from Moscow warned that the long arm of Russia can reach a very long way. “Anyone,” he said, can be caught, “anywhere,” including diplomats from other countries. His sharp words were directed at a counterpart from Lithuania. At a March 2022 meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an organization whose goal is peace, the Lithuanian had dared criticize Russia’s war, thus drawing the ire of his Russian colleague. In the end, the Russian threatened to place his fellow diplomat on trial in Russia, where criticizing the war can result in prison sentences of up to 15 years.

The verbal outburst is one of many conflicts currently rocking the security organization. Nothing has been the same for the OSCE since founding member Russian invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The war, it seems, has totally caught up with the peace organization. Ukraine’s ambassador to the OSCE, Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, calls it an “existential crisis created by Russia.”

France’s public schools will enforce dress code banning Islamic abayas, says Macron

French students won’t get past the door if they show up for school wearing long robes, President Emmanuel Macron made clear Friday, saying authorities would be “intractable” in enforcing a new rule when classes resume next week.

French Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced at a news conference six days ago that robes worn mainly by Muslims, known as abayas for girls and women and khamis for boys and men, would be banned with the start of the new school year on Monday.

French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on Sunday rejected any accusation of unfair treatment with the introduction of this ban. “I can see that there is manipulation and attempts at provocation on the part of some. I’m thinking in particular of LFI (La France Insoumise or France Unbowed – a French left-wing political party),” Borne said in an interview with French radio network RTL.

“But I want to state things very clearly: there is no stigmatisation. Every one of our fellow citizens, whatever their religion, has their place in our country,” she said.

Colombian government and rebels agree on ceasefire

In a renewed attempt to broker peace, Colombia’s leftist President Petro agreed on a ceasefire with an armed dissident group. The EMC is a splinter group that rejected the 2016 deal broadly honored by the larger FARC.

The Colombian government and armed dissidents called Estado Mayor Central (EMC), announced on Saturday that they had agreed to renew a ceasefire, brokered and broken several times in recent months, and peace talks.

It’s part of leftist President Gustavo Petro’s bid to expand on his predecessor’s landmark peace deal with the country’s biggest rebel group, FARC, which disarmed in 2016.

The current truce will “aim to reduce confrontation and violence” said the joint statement.

The ceasefire, the statement said, will apply across the country with the aim of including “civil society in the peace process.”

Gaza’s calligraffiti of hope

Sadly, the Gaza Strip is no stranger to violence and destruction, with repeated Israeli assaults on the besieged enclave exacerbated by the Israeli siege that prevents the entry of building material to mend what was shattered.

So the people of Gaza are no strangers to the rubble that punctuates their everyday lives, manoeuvring around the piles of broken walls with their steel rebar reaching up into the sky.

Palestinian artist Ayman al-Hosari, 35, has always been affected by the ugliness of the piles of rubble and the suffering that they represent.

So, one day, he decided to take matters into his own hands, gathering up brushes, rags and his inspiration and heading for the nearest pile of rubble.