Ukraine Update 17 April, 2021: Surge In Diplomatic Expulsions

The Biden administration’s expulsion of ten Russian diplomats on Thursday brought about a tit-for-tat response from Moscow almost immediately. Now, it appears the move and countermove have set off a string of similar actions between Russia and Ukraine, as well as a growing number of other European countries.

The exchange between Ukraine and Russia has come about because of events in St Petersburg on Friday. Alexander Sosonyuk, Ukraine’s consul in St. Petersburg was accused of receiving classified information and was taken into custody by the FSB (Federal Security Bureau) on Friday. There has been no explanation of exactly what type of classified information Sosonyuk was allegedly found in possession of. Later in the day, the Russian foreign ministry informed the Ukrainian government that Sosonyuk must leave the country by Thursday. The Ukrainian foreign ministry responded by announcing that a senior Russian diplomat will be expelled from Ukraine on Monday.

Fresh on the heels of that, the Czech Republic today announced the expulsion of 18 Russian embassy officials linked to an ammunition depot explosion in 2014. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said earlier today that Czech intelligence agencies have provided him with clear evidence about the involvement of Russian embassy officials in the blast that killed two people. While the expulsion of diplomats suspected to be intelligence officers is nothing new, the timing of the Czech move raises an eyebrow. With so many nations directly or otherwise involved in the Ukraine crisis now trading PNG (persona non grata) declarations, one has to wonder where it will all end. Also, these moves will adversely affect tensions in the region over the coming days.

On the diplomatic front, expect to see more expulsions also in the next few days. For what it’s worth, don’t be surprised if Belarus, or another Russian ally steps up and declares a number of Western diplomats to be declared persona non grata. That’s how the game is played.

Tuesday 7 March, 2017 Update: North Korea & Malaysia Impose Travel Bans

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International relations generally incorporate the major elements of a very successful soap opera. There is drama, action, and betrayal ad nauseam, the forming and breaking of alliances for strategic purposes, and occasionally a dash of comedy is added to the mixture. The ongoing squabble between North Korea and Malaysia contains every one of the abovementioned ingredients, and as in any good soap opera, the plot is growing steadily over time.

The latest installment of the crisis came earlier today when North Korea barred all Malaysian residents currently in North Korea from leaving the country. Malaysia responded by extending the travel ban on North Korean embassy officials to cover all North Korean citizens in the country. At present, there are eleven Malaysian citizens in North Korea. Nine of these are embassy staff members and their family members. The other two are working with the World Food Program. The number of North Koreans in Malaysia is not known, however, the Associated Press estimates there are roughly 1,000. Both countries have already declared each other’s ambassadors to be persona non grata, essentially a civil way of kicking a top diplomat out of the country. North Korea released a statement saying that Malaysians were barred from leaving the country until there is a ‘fair settlement’ between the two governments over the death of Kim Jung Nam.

All of this activity stems from the murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago. Malaysia accused North Korean agents of planning and executing the assassination and using VX, a nerve agent, as the weapon. The incident led to a tailspin of accusations, counter-accusations, diplomatic rhetoric, a criminal investigation….and now this. Malaysia and North Korea have historically enjoyed good relations. To be accurate, Malaysia has been one of North Korea’s best friends on the international stage. Those relations have frozen amid the current diplomatic standoff and the possibility of a complete diplomatic breakdown looms in the near future.

*Author’s note- The article on Rebuilding the USAF has been pushed off to next week in light of recent events in the Western Pacific. The focus for the rest of the week will be on what is happening there. *