American Killed in Ukraine, Kremlin Coy on Alleged Abuses of Gay Chechens: The Weekend Behind, the Week Ahead
- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
The first round of French presidential elections dominated the headlines this weekend, but the world continued to spin miles away from Paris.
In Ukraine on Sunday, an American paramedic working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was killed in eastern Ukraine when his vehicle hit a mine. Two others were injured. This is the first death of an OSCE official in the war in Ukraine that has taken over 10,000 lives.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed his condolences to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who “reiterated the United States’ firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In a statement, State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner called on Russia to use its “influence with the [Russian-backed] separatists” to allow for a timely investigation into the death. Toner also urged Russia to use that same influence to encourage “the separatists to take the first step toward peace to eastern Ukraine and ensure a visible, verifiable, and irreversible improvement in the security situation.”
Russia, for its part, said the circumstances surrounding the death indicated it was likely a “provocation.”
But Russia’s seemingly immutable stance on eastern Ukraine is not the only one to watch from the Kremlin this week. On April 17, federal prosecutors launched an investigation into media reports on the alleged abduction, torture, and killing of gay men in Chechnya. On Monday, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the European Union’s report on alleged violations of rights of gay men in Chechnya must be based on “facts.” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said there’s no reason to doubt Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, when he said there were no abuses of gay people in Chechnya.
How, or whether, the international community responds is still to be seen. On Monday, Mogherini said the EU is ready to return to working strategically with Russia.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, nearing his 100 day mark, spent the weekend tweeting on the importance of jobs in the face of drastic environmental change; Mexico’s alleged eventual payment for a border wall; and polls.
Vice President Mike Pence, who cut his trip to the Pacific short to deal with domestic matters, spent the weekend undoing damage Trump did with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shortly after his inauguration, reaffirming the refugee deal between the United States and Australia that set Trump off in the first place.
Photo credit: ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP/Getty Images