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Antonov Describes Ongoing Contentious Diplomatic Conditions Since Returning to U.S.

Aug. 3, 2021 (EIRNS)—The continuing U.S. imposition of restrictions on Russian diplomats in the U.S., and the Russian countermeasures, are fueling a diplomatic crisis. On Aug. 2 the United States handed Russia a list of 24 diplomats who are to leave the country by Sept. 3, in accordance with the U.S. imposition in December 2020 of a unilateral three-year limit on the assignment of Russian personnel in the U.S. In an interview published Aug. 1 with The National Interest, “We Have To Counter Lies and Fake News Virtually on a Daily Basis,” Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov strongly countered Washington’s latest move. Antonov had only returned to Washington on June 20, prompting editor Jacob Heilbrunn to ask, “Do you have anything positive to report, particularly on the contentious issue of the work of the embassies in the two capitals? Are there any new developments on the status of the U.S. and Russian consulates which were closed in recent years?”

The diplomat replied: “Unfortunately, the situation does not change for the better. Russian diplomatic missions in the United States are still forced to work under unprecedented restrictions that not only remain in effect, but are stepped up. Regardless of the Biden administration’s declarations concerning the important role of diplomacy and willingness to develop stable and predictable relations with our country, the Russian diplomatic presence experiences continuous strikes.

“U.S. colleagues are persistent and creative in this business. The expulsions of diplomats are implemented under far-fetched pretexts now and then. Last December the State Department unilaterally established a three-year limit on the assignment period for Russian personnel in the United States that, as far as we know, is not applied to any other country. We received a list of 24 diplomats who are expected to leave the country before Sept. 3, 2021. Almost all of them will leave without replacements, because Washington has abruptly tightened visa issuing procedures.”

Heilbrunn asked about the status of new U.S.-Russian dialogue on cybersecurity: Antonov replied that Russia has invited the U.S. administration to discuss cyber threats to arms control systems and hopes for a comprehensive cybersecurity dialogue in the future.

However, when it comes to cybersecurity, Antonov said the U.S. side continues to want to limit discussion to ransomware activities and not extend it to the broader aspects of cybersecurity. Despite Moscow’s 35 requests to Washington concerning cyberattacks from its territory in the first six months of 2021, as well as 45 for last year, the U.S. has responded to none of them.

“We have consistently sought to establish professional cooperation on cybersecurity issues in Washington. In particular, since 2015, we have taken six attempts to launch such interaction. Moreover, on Sept. 25, 2020, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin proposed a comprehensive program of measures to restore Russia-U.S. cooperation in the field of International Information Security (IIS). Unfortunately, there has been no official reaction from the United States so far,”

Antonov said.

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