A line for US visas at the US General Consulate in Yekaterinburg. From 1 September 2017, issuance of US visas has been limited to the Moscow consulate. (Image: afterempire.com)
In response to the closing of the Russian consulate in San Francisco and of two trade representations in Washington and New York, Moscow officials and Russian nationalists have called for closing the US consulate general in Yekaterinburg; but those appeals are only the latest step in a longstanding Russian campaign against that institution, according to Kseniya Kirillova.
On the AfterEmpire portal today, the US-based Russian journalist surveys not only the latest attacks but their history, a programmatic effort she argues is intended to make Russians suspicious of all US diplomats and thus make it difficult if not impossible for them to do their work.
The US consulate general in Yekaterinburg, which services 11 subjects of the Russian Federation, has been in operation since 1994. Over that 23-year period but especially in the last three years, it has been “the object of the harshest attacks by local ‘bloggers in civilian clothes,’ the media, and all kinds of ‘patriotic organizations.’”
The latest and one of the nastiest attacks, by the Russian Anti-Maidan group last week, has attracted some attention because of the diplomatic tit-for-tat between Moscow and Washington, Kirillova says. But the start of this “sad tradition” really dates to October 2014.
At that time, the Russian media attacked the consulate for supposedly seeking to recruit and direct local environmental activists against the authorities when the US vice consul offered to help one of their number get medical treatment abroad.
In the months since then, the local media has featured stories about many meetings between consulate officials and local people, typically with suggestions that the former are trying to recruit the latter to work against Russia (e.g., nakanune.ru and nakanune.ru).
The quality of almost all of these stories, Kirillova continues, is suggested by one that claimed a meeting between the US consul and the mayor of Yekaterinburg was intended to draw the latter into “an espionage network.”
Such attacks have only intensified whenever there are American visitors from Washington or from the US embassy in Moscow as in December 2015 when two senior US diplomats arrived to meet with Yekaterinburg and regional businessmen, a core part of the consulate’s entirely legal responsibilities.
More media attacks on the consulate as a source of anti-Russian ideas have followed, Kirillova reports (livejournal.com, livejournal.com, 66.ru and livejournal.com), including some that include information that would not have been publicly available to journalists.
The Russian journalist concludes her article with some examples of the ways in which Russian consular officials have behaved in the US, ways very different from the ones US consular officials have in Russia but quite similar to the kind that Russian media attack the American diplomats for.
About six months ago, she notes, Moscow’s Kommersant newspaper reported that Russian diplomats had called on Russian emigres in the US to oppose Washington policies, an appeal that was followed by the documentation of Russian efforts to organize militarized camps for the children of emigres in the US (on that, see “Moscow diplomats said behind formation of militarized Russian and Cossack groups in US“).
Whether Moscow will close the Yekaterinburg consulate remains unclear at present, Kirillova says, although it is obvious that the Russian foreign ministry doesn’t understand the differences between Russian and US diplomats and simply projects what the former do on the latter.
- Moscow diplomats said behind formation of militarized Russian and Cossack groups in US
- Russian diplomats Chisinau expelled reportedly recruited Gagauz to fight in Ukraine
- Spying is far from the only ‘action incompatible with diplomatic status’
- American diplomats and Russian “special assignments”
- Moscow demands diplomatic reciprocity from others but doesn’t extend it
- Putin’s diplomatic strategy: Don’t offer solutions, create new problems – a disaster for all