On April 27th, in response to all the sanctions, harsh rhetoric, diplomatic expulsions and threats, Russia’s Channel 1 released a list of “unfriendly countries”.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced over the weekend that the U.S. would be on the list following a presidential decree on April 23rd.
Also named were: Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Estonia, United Kingdom and Georgia. Another screen grab from Channel 1, circulating on social media, also showed Australia in the group.
The list of unfriendly countries for Russia does not surprise. This is quality mark for our foreign and security policy. France and Germany and other allies, it is time to join us! pic.twitter.com/Tpsy3iWW49
— Marko Mihkelson (@markomihkelson) April 27, 2021
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the list had not been finalized, and that he was “unaware, if there is something regarding the deadlines.”
The list appears to be mostly symbolic and the consequences of being included on it are limited to Russian citizens being banned from working in diplomatic missions on Russian soil, Izvestia reported.
State Duma Committee member Oleg Shein told the paper that the notable absentees—Germany and France, were left off despite their frequent criticism of Russia.
This was because Moscow considered they were sufficiently independent from the US and as such, “they are a negotiating party for us,” Shein said.
The list was generally regarded as a joke.
Lithuania’s ex-foreign minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted:
#Kremlin, claiming to represent whole #Russia, made a list of ‘unfriendly countries’. List not quite big yet. It’s like a list of recognition which countries efforts most efficient in containment and isolation of #Kremlin’s aggressive behavior and it’s own Anti- Russian activity pic.twitter.com/6udXlmuqJu
— Linas Linkevicius (@LinkeviciusL) April 27, 2021
The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets expressed some optimism about what a summit might bring achieve in an op-ed which said that the Kremlin’s sanctions of the U.S. was “symbolic” and showed that Putin “had heard and accepted Biden’s proposal to de-escalate relations.”
It also said that Putin considers “direct dialogue with Biden to be more important and useful than the chance for posturing.”
Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly earlier in April was generally empty rhetoric and about the wishes of the people to live in peace, similar to Biden’s empty rhetoric prior.
However, US President Joe Biden turned around and sanctioned Russia, and in response Moscow simply added it to an “unfriendly” countries list and forbade Russian citizens from working in its embassies and consulates.
There is constant referral to “red lines” and such, but they keep being pushed back.
Additionally, two employees of the Lithuanian embassy, three of Slovakia, as well as one employee of the diplomatic missions of Latvia and Estonia each must leave Russia within a week, the Foreign Ministry said.
Moscow lodged a strong protest with the representatives of these countries. Earlier, they declared several Russians persona non grata out of solidarity with the Czech Republic.
Similar measures have also been taken by the United States, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania.
There is a serious crisis in relations between Moscow and Prague: the parties have expelled dozens of people after the Czech authorities accused Russia of involvement in the explosions at an arms depot in Vrbetica in 2014.
In some cases, the expulsion became part of the sanctions policy, in others, there were accusations of espionage, in others, the departments referred to the Vienna Convention, which allows not to name the reason.