North Korea drought threatens famine and instability

As N. Korea suffers its worst drought since 2001, experts warn that food shortages will lead to more internal instability. Outside aid is critical, even as Pyongyang continues to test missiles. Julian Ryall reports.

Düre in Nordkorea (picture alliance / dpa)

According to a report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on July 20, prolonged dry weather in the central and southern cereal-producing provinces in North Korea has led to “serious concerns” about the final production of the internationally isolated country’s main cropping season.

Extreme drought in these critical growing regions since late April could drastically effect yields of staple crops and put millions of people at risk of malnutrition. The FAO report also states that Pyongyang will need to import more than 500,000 tons of cereal to stave off famine.

“If rains do not improve soon, the 2017 cereal output may decrease significantly, further worsening the local food security situation,” the report stated. “Immediate interventions are needed to support the affected farmers and prevent negative coping strategies for the most vulnerable households.”

The report specifically outlines how crops of rice, corn, potatoes and soybeans have been hit along with herds of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry being severely affected.

North Korea’s agricultural sector is also hampered by a low level of mechanization, poor irrigation and a shortage of fertilizers, all of which are long-term problems for the North’s farmers.

Another ‘arduous march?’

Welthungerhilfe Nordkorea (Getty Images)A malnourished N. Korean child receives food supplied by the UN in 2004

A new food crisis in North Korea also has the potential to stir discontent among the country’s middle class, who still remember the four-year famine in the mid-1990s that the regime euphemistically refers to as the “Arduous March.”

According to the South Korea-based Daily NK news website, the price of high-quality rice in the three key markets of Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan increased 10 percent in June alone.

It was the third consecutive month in which the price of this staple foodstuff increased and there are reports of people stockpiling out of concern for what the future holds.

Read:Dissidents reveal famine in homeland

“It has been reported that the North Korea government has recently cut the daily food ration for everyone,” Rah Jong Yil, a former head of South Korean intelligence, told DW.

“And while things are not as bad as during the ‘Arduous March’ period, there are some very small signs of discontent with the regime,” he said. “There are more conversations among close friends who are asking if the regime is over-doing the threats against the international community.”

The intelligence expert also said that it seems North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is sensing discontent.

“In one of his most recent speeches, he expressed his ‘contrite heart’ for not meeting all the demands of the people,” Rah said. “He has also called on people to ‘tighten their belts for the sake of the revolution,’ suggesting that food shortages are on the horizon.”

Biting the hand that feeds

But provocations towards countries that have in the past provided life-saving food aid continue.

Given that Kim’s regime fired a ICBM this weekend and has threatened to launch nuclear attacks against the US mainland and to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire,” it is unlikely that the primary aid donors of the past will hurry to assist Pyongyang again this time.

In the mid-1990s, South Korea, China, the US, Japan and the European Union all provided food to the North Korean people, with shipments peaking in 2001 at 1.5 million tons. Nevertheless, it is estimated that 3 million North Koreans starved to death.

According to a statement from the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, in mid-July, Russia delivered around 5,200 tons of flour to North Korea via the World Food Program.  The aid was unloaded at the port of Chongjin before being sent to be processed into cookies “for the needy.”

Moscow already donated nearly 5,000 tons of flour earlier in the year and an additional 2,700 tons is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

The total figure, however, is a fraction of what is needed and very few other countries are showing any indications of providing assistance to a regime that prefers to develop weapons of mass destruction instead of feeding its own people.

Kim lives comfortably

Critics point out, for example, that as well as spending heavily on weapons, the Kim family and the “elite” of his entourage live very comfortably, despite sanctions.

The country has traditionally been funded by the overseas sale of synthetic narcotics, fake currency, hacking attacks against foreign financial institutions and the export of cheap laborers.

Other revenue comes from the sale of coal and minerals, although those sources of income have been dramatically curtailed by international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The North’s missile technology has also been purchased by other nations, including Iran, and the Bank of Korea estimated in its last statement on Pyongyang’s economic situation that the gross domestic product grew by 3.9 percent last year, the fastest growth since 1999.

Watch video01:46

UN warns that 20 million face starvation

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

  • Courtesy: DW

ICBM tests force South Korea to get tough on North

With Pyongyang rejecting or ignoring all attempts by Seoul to build bridges, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is under pressure to take a firmer line against Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea. Julian Ryall reports.

South Korean President Moon Ja-in (left) with US President Donald Trump in Washington

In the nearly three months since he assumed office in Seoul, President Moon Jae-in has done everything in his power to build bridges with the regime in North Korea and reduce tensions that bedevil the Korean Peninsula. At every turn, Moon’s overtures have been rebuffed or simply ignored . If anything, his olive branches have been met with more rhetoric, belligerence and missile launches.

North Korea’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range that puts most of the continental United States within reach of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons may, however, prove to be a turning point in Moon’s approach to dealing with Kim Jong Un.

Nordkorea Kim Jong Un Freude nach dem Test der Hwasong-14 Rakete (Reuters/KCNA)Moon’s overtures have been rebuffed or simply ignored by North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un

“The latest missile launch could lead to fundamental changes in the northeast Asian security structure,” Moon said in an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Saturday, July 29. Moon added that South Korea should “consider our own sanctions” against Pyongyang.

THAAD deployment

Within hours of the ICBM launch, Moon also announced that his administration had decided to deploy the four remaining US Army Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems. That was a reversal of a decision announced only 16 hours previously that the deployments would not go ahead until extensive environmental impact assessments could be carried out, a procedure that could take several months to complete, in order to placate local residents.

Moon’s attempts to build a working relationship with North Korea have come under fire in the South Korean media, with popular tabloids in particular calling for him to take a firmer line.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper ran an editorial on July 18 headlined “Seoul seems hell-bent on being duped again by North Korea,” in which it criticized the government’s decision to ask for talks between military officials from North and South to avoid provocations on the border, as well as discussions between representatives of the Red Cross about the resumption of reunions of families separated since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The editorial accused Moon of “begging” the North for links to resume and pointed out that any meeting would only serve as an opportunity for the North to make demands of the South while the North continues with the development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

“Why on earth does the government expect that the North will change if it offers a few concessions?” the article asked.

Watch video00:32

North Korea claims successful ICBM launch

‘Fundamental shift’

“A fundamental shift in the North’s attitude is necessary to achieve denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, and neither North Korea nor any other autocratic regime has ever made any fundamental changes without strong and continued pressure from the international community,” it concluded.

And while South Korea’s presidential Blue House officials have underlined in recent days that the administration remains committed to a twin-track approach of seeking talks while applying pressure, the emphasis may have shifted marginally from one to the other.

“I do not believe it would be correct to say that Moon has changed his mind on North Korea; I would say that after three months as president, he has become alive to the hard facts of life when it comes to dealing with Pyongyang,” said Rah Jong-yil, a former head of South Korean intelligence.

“After trying many things, he is now being compelled to make choices and decisions that he would not have done previously because this is the reality of our relationship with the North,” he told DW.

“Many leaders have come to power in Seoul with firm plans of how they are going to advance the relationship with the North, how they are going to communicate with the various Kim regimes, but sooner or later they all become disillusioned.”

– North Korea drought threatens famine and instability

– US & Japan vow action on ‘growing direct’ North Korea threat

Different response

“Moon cannot just keep repeating his plans for better ties in the face of what is happening in the North,” he said. “He has to react differently. But I do believe that if he did get a different response from the other side, then he would again be ready to talk.”

Garren Mulloy, an associate professor of international relations at Daito Bunka University, said that Moon is not performing a sea change in his policies toward Pyongyang, but is instead “hedging.”

“When he came in, Moon said he did not want the THAAD system to be deployed, but now he is putting in the second lot of missiles and he clearly believes that it is better to have missile defense than not to,” Mulloy told DW. “But I would say this is Moon hedging his policies rather than hardening them.”

“He will continue his efforts at detente but he also knows that he needs a contingency plan that he can show to his constituents – particularly the left, which supported him and his position on THAAD in the election,” Mulloy said. “So he needs to make it clear that he is making efforts to achieve his aims through both the soft and the hard approaches.”

Read: Is Trump using North Korea threat as trade leverage with South?

Watch video01:56

My picture of the week | Frightening message from North Korea

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Courtesy: DW

China’s internet crackdown reaches new level of restriction

Foreign VPNs have been removed from China’s Apple stores, WhatsApp messages are being filtered and a massive censorship campaign scrubbed social media of Liu Xiaobo. What is happening to the Chinese web?

China Beijing - Google zensiert in China (Imago/ZUMA Press)

Beijing’s censors are busy adding more bricks to the “Great Firewall of China” – a popular term for the widespread use of online censorship in the country run by the Communist Party.

Over the weekend, Apple confirmed that it had removed foreign Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from Apple online stores in accordance with Chinese government regulations passed in January stipulating that all VPNs in China require a government license.

DW RECOMMENDS

Have you ever wondered if your government monitors what you do on your smartphone? If you lived in China, this would be an every-day Orwellian reality. (31.03.2017)

VPNs redirect a user’s online activity through another network and permit access to restricted web content. Without using a VPN, internet users in mainland China cannot access many foreign websites like Facebook. Critics have accused Apple of bending to pressure from the Chinese government.

“Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed,” ExpressVPN, a major VPN provider in China, wrote in a statement released Saturday.

“We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts,” it added.

Read: Apple deletes New York Times apps in China

“We received notice of Apple’s removal of VPN apps around 4:00 am GMT on July 29, 2017 through iTunes Connect, which is Apple’s tool for developers who have made apps available for download through the App Store,” an ExpressVPN spokesperson told DW in a written statement.

“ExpressVPN remains focused on ensuring users can continue to connect securely and reliably, no matter where they are located. Users in China can continue to stay connected to the open internet with ExpressVPN’s apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and other platforms,” the spokesperson stated.

“Those in China wishing to connect with iPhones or iPads can download the ExpressVPN iOS app from a different country’s App Store – they simply need to register an additional App Store account with a billing address in a country of their choice, with no corresponding payment method needed.”

Without the use of VPNs, most of the internet will be off-limits to China, home to the world’s largest number of internet users. Apple also recently announced it would be building a data center in China to comply with new cybersecurity laws.

The restriction on VPNs is the latest in a series of internet curtailments that have been rolled out by Beijing in only the past month. One of the most glaring cases followed the death of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo on July 13. It was widely reported that Chinese censors actively blocked any discussion of Liu on Chinese social media.

Screenshot von Citzienlab Kanada - Zensur von Liu Xiaobo auf WeChat in China (citizenlab.ca/WeChat)A screenshot from WeChat in Canada and China showing Liu removed from the Chinese device

Forced compliance 

The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto,analyzed the censorship of commemorating Liu, both on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat, and the Weibo search engine.

Their findings showed that censors are increasing the breadth of censorship, even blocking images in one-on-one and group chats for the first time, in addition to filtering text messaging.

Masashi Crete-Nishihata, Research Manager at the Citizen Lab, told DW that social media companies operating in China must follow strict content regulations.

“It’s important to understand how censorship of social media works in China. Companies are held responsible for content on their platforms and are expected to dedicate resources to ensure compliance or face penalties,” he said.

“The government effectively offloads the responsibility for content control to the private sector, creating a system of ‘self-discipline.'”

Crete-Nishihata added that research has shown that social media companies have flexibility in deciding how to implement official controls.

“This situation leaves companies in a balancing act between growing their business and attracting users, all the while staying within the lines set by the government,” he said. “Social media platforms in China generally block content through a combination of automated filters and review teams that manually inspect content.”

Watch video00:47

China goes all out censoring online reaction to Xiaobo death

Danger of dissidence

In the case of commemorating Liu Xiaobo, Citizen Lab was able to determine that censors were working in real time to filter out all mention of Liu’s name and legacy from WeChat, the most popular messaging platform in China with an estimated 889 million monthly users.

“The death of Liu marks a particularly critical moment for the Communist Party of China,” said Crete-Nishihata, pointing out that the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests grew out of a public mourning of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party general secretary who had been purged after falling out of favor with powerful party officials.

“Like Hu, Liu was a popular symbol of political reform and freedom, and his death could potentially rally the public to mourn or cause embarrassment to the authorities,” added the expert.

“While it is not known what specific directives may have been sent down from the government, given the high sensitivity of Liu’s death, it is likely companies received instructions on how to handle it or may have proactively sought out official guidance.”

Apple’s capitulation to China’s VPN crack-down will return to haunt it at home http://dld.bz/fXvqm 

Photo published for Apple’s capitulation to China’s VPN crack-down will…

Apple’s capitulation to China’s VPN crack-down will…

Yesterday Apple removed all major VPN apps from its App Store in the country. These VPNs aided internet users there to get around the government’s vast system of censorship and access uncensored…

techcrunch.com

No app is safe

Shortly after commemoration of Liu’s passingwas scrubbed from the Chinese web, WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, experienced disruptions in service for the first time. Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, but WhatsApp has been able to function in the country. But on July 18, it was reported that WhatsApp users in China could no longer receive photos and videos. Text messages were still getting through.

Experts told the Associated Press that it appeared China was blanket blocking all video and photo content because they could not selectively block content as they did on Chinese-based WeChat.

Crete-Nishihata from Citizen Lab said that there was no evidence of WhatsApp cooperating with the Chinese government for content filtering. “WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, meaning that messages are only readable to the users in a conversation,” said the expert. “WhatsApp services being disrupted in China appears to have been done by WhatsApp servers being blocked by China’s national web filtering system.”

Read:Winnie-the-Pooh banned in China for resembling the president

Clean-up before the congress

Experts also point to the upcoming 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress as a reason behind Beijing’s ramped-up control of online information and communication.

For example, before and during the last party congress in 2012, there was an increase in online censorship, including a blockade on Google and Western media websites.

“The upcoming party congress is another example of an event that is sensitive to the Communist Party of China,” said Crete-Nishihata. “It is likely that in the lead up to the party congress we will see tightened restrictions and blocking of content related to party leaders, especially Xi Jinping and anything that may be perceived as harming his reputation.”

DW RECOMMENDS

WWW LINKS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

  • Date 01.08.2017
  • Author Wesley Rahn
  • Related Subjects FacebookGoogleAsiaPeople’s Republic of China
  • Keywords Asia, China, China censorship, Social Media, WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Chinese Communist Party Congress, Liu Xiaobo
  • Courtesy: DW

China’s Xi Jinping asserts territorial integrity amid regional tensions

Marking the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s president has vowed to “defeat all invasions.” Xi also pledged to expand an ambitious modernization program of the military.

Watch video01:10

China displays its military might

China will never allow its sovereignty to be compromised, said Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday during a ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.

“The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions,” Xi said.

Beijing has raised tensions in the region with its increasingly assertive stance in territorial disputes. In the South China Sea, it has built military facilities on artificial islands and taken control of territorial waters claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.

Relations between Beijing and Taiwan in particular have soured over the past year after the self-ruled island elected President Tsai Ing-wen from a pro-independence party. His nationalist predecessor had pursued a China-friendly course. Now, Taipei has rebuffed the “one China policy” that governed relations since the early 90s.

“We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form … No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests,” Xi added.

A map showing China's territorial assertions in the South China Sea

‘Strong military’

The Chinese president said that over the past five years, the country’s military has successfully “remodeled” its power structure as well as its public image.

When Xi rose to power in 2012, he vowed to modernize the Chinese military, considered the largest in the world. Since then, Beijing has sought to overhaul its technological capabilities and invest in new equipment, including stealth fighters and aircraft carriers.

“To build a strong military, China must unswervingly adhere to the Party’s absolute leadership over the armed forces, and make sure that the people’s army always follows the Party,” Xi said.

Read more: Djibouti military base ‘ a manifestation of China’s global interests’

Although it has been decades since China last fought a war, the government insists that its ambitious modernization program for the military is to adequately defend its economy.

As part of the 90th anniversary celebrations for the People’s Liberation Army, Xi presided over an elaborate military parade on Sunday at a remote training base in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

ls/rt (Reuters, AP, dpa)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Courtesy: DW

Who is John Kelly, Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff?

From US Marine to the face of Donald Trump’s immigration policy, John Kelly now has become the White House’s highest-ranking employee. But how did he get there? DW takes a look at the retired general’s rise.

John Kelly

John Kelly “will bring new structure to the White House,” said presiding White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the unveiling of his appointment.

Kelly, a native Bostonian and retired military general, was sworn in on Monday as US President Donald Trump’s chief of staff after serving six months as secretary of homeland security, a role that he used to enact a stringent policy of mass detentions of irregular migrants.

Shortly after the White House announced the resignation of press secretary Anthony Scaramucci, Sanders said that “all staff” are expected to report to Kelly.  The departure from office was widely seen by analysts as Kelly cleaning house within the administration.

Kelly’s just-started stint in the White House is the next stage of his political career that follows extensive experience as a US serviceman.

From Marine to general

Kelly began his career in the US Marines by enlisting in 1970. After being discharged in 1972, he returned as a commissioned officer in 1976.

Despite serving as special assistant to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe beginning in 1999, Kelly made his military career mark while serving in Iraq. He served first in 2002 as assistant division commander for the 1st Marine Division before becoming the commander of Task Force Tripoli in 2003 after the fall of Baghdad.

Read more: Why the Russia probes don’t cripple Trump’s foreign policy

He assumed command of coalition forces operating in western Iraq in 2008. After a year, he returned to the US, where he became the senior military assistant to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2011.

In 2012, Kelly was appointed commander of US Southern Command, which oversees military operations in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, including the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Watch video00:37

Trump taps John Kelly as chief of staff

While serving as the head of Southern Command, the general told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015 that human trafficking on the US-Mexico border posed an existential threat to the country.

“In my opinion, the relative ease with which human smugglers moved tens of thousands of people to our nation’s doorstep also serves as another warning sign: these smuggling routes are a potential vulnerability to our homeland,” he said. “Terrorist organizations could seek to leverage those same smuggling routes to move operatives with intent to cause grave harm to our citizens or even bring weapons of mass destruction into the United States.”

Read more: Why President Trump’s wall directive is largely symbolic

Surviving the White House

Kelly retired from the military in January 2016, a move that effectively marked his shift to civilian life. Roughly one year later, Trump appointed him as secretary of homeland security.

In that position, Kelly was in charge of more than 240,000 employees, including border patrol agents, the Secret Service and the agency in charge of overseeing immigration and naturalization.

Kelly continues to be a major proponent of Trump’s proposal to build a border wall. The president has described his now chief of staff as a “true star of my administration.”

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

US Treasury sanctions Venezuelan president Maduro

US Treasury sanctions Venezuelan president Maduro
The US Treasury Department has announced that it is sanctioning Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, describing the Constituent Assembly elections held in the country on Sunday as “illegitimate.”

In an update on Monday, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it had added Maduro to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. This means that any US-based assets of his have been frozen, and American citizens are forbidden from conducting any business with him.

The following individual has been added to OFAC’s SDN List: MADURO MOROS, Nicolas… President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” the update reads.

Maduro ‘ready for national dialogue’ as vote on ’s new assembly gripped by violence https://on.rt.com/8j5q 

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the White House considers the elections held in Venezuela to be illegitimate and holds Maduro responsible.

Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.

Maduro promised to continue to protect his country, despite the newly announced sanctions. In a televised address to the nation, the president emphasized that he does not “take orders from the empire,”telling his American counterpart, “Keep up your sanctions, Donald Trump!”

“I am proud of the alleged sanctions… because I do not wag my tail like a lying dog,” Maduro said Monday after the election commission announced Sunday’s voter’s turnout. “I am punished for defending the natural resources of Venezuelan lands.”

“I am the independent president of a free nation,” he said, according to Globovision. “You’re with Trump or Venezuela, you’re with Trump or with democracy, you’re with Trump or the free world.”

Election meddling: US sanctions 13 Venezuela officials, warns against electing Constituent Assembly

Venezuela held National Constituent Assembly elections Sunday following months of street protests and clashes in which more than 100 people have died. Despite the violence and opposition boycott, over 8 million people participated in the democratic process by casting their votes for the 545 candidates who will be empowered to draft a new constitution.

Ahead of the vote, the US Treasury had already slapped sanctions on 13 senior Venezuelan officials for allegedly “undermining democracy”with the initiative.

The assembly will also have a mandate to deny the country’s lawmakers parliamentary immunity. Critics say the new government body will give the ruling Socialist Party unprecedented powers, despite president Nicolas Maduro’s pledge that the Assembly will become “place for dialogue.”

Maduro claimed victory in Sunday’s vote, but a number of countries, including the UK, the US and Argentina refused to recognize the election, the final results of which are yet to be announced.

Russia, however, praised the vote as laying the basis for a peaceful resolution of the contradictions plaguing Venezuelan society.

“We regret to note that opposition forces did not respond to the call to take part in the vote, but instead tried to hamper the elections, provoking clashes that have resulted in loss of life. We urge the opposing parties to stop the pointless violent confrontation,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Throughout the course of the unrest, which boiled over at the end of March after the Supreme Court ruled to take over the duties of the National Assembly, Venezuelan officials have blamed foreign powers for fueling the violence. Politicians also claimed that the scale of the protests is largely exaggerated in the media.

Caracas turning into scenes from ‘Mad Max’ in latest wave of violent anti-govt clashes in Venezuela

A week before the elections, Maduro accused the US of plotting “regime change” in Caracas after CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a comment about discussing “transition” in Venezuela with regional partners.

Courtesy: RT

Moscow denies banning US diplomats from their compound ahead of deadline

Russia has not barred US diplomatic staff from retrieving their belongings from the suburban residence at Serebryany Bor on the outskirts of Moscow, a foreign ministry source said, refuting claims that access to the recreational compound had been denied ahead of the deadline to vacate the premises.

On Monday, American embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson told RIA and Reuters that US diplomatic staff had been blocked from entering the Serebryany Bor recreational compound for two days, despite being allowed to use the so-called Dacha until noon Tuesday.

The accusations by the US diplomatic staff is a “deliberate provocation,” a source from the Russian foreign ministry told RIA after the news agency reached out for an official comment.

On Friday, following the US Congress’ approval of new sanctions against Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry told Washington to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia to 455 people by September 1. Moscow has also ordered Washington to suspend the use of a warehouse and surrender the Serebryany Bor Dacha by August 1.

The source explained that the US embassy sent cargo trucks to a property located on a national reserve territory, where any industrial size vehicles are not allowed without proper clearance.

The source noted that the Americans, “simply did not bother to inform the Moscow department of environmental protection in advance that they were going to send three large trucks there.”

Furthermore, on Monday, the Russian foreign ministry urgently arranged for special vehicle access with the environmental protection agency for American staff, but the US side appears to have deliberately left the vicinity of the compound.

“At the entrance to the reserve, the park security workers wanted to hand out permission slips to the embassy staff to pass through,” the source said, noting that the US team simply “turned around and drove away,” apparently after receiving orders from headquarters.

“As far as we know, they are going to return on Tuesday morning, but American diplomats continue to tell the media that they were supposedly driven away,” the ministry’s source concluded.

Courtesy: RT