For the second time in a month, residents of North American capitals are expressing their outrage at the vandalism and property damage committed by Russian embassy staff in their cities. Both cases saw Russian diplomatic personnel attacking and destroying equipment left outside their doors in support of the Ukrainian people, with both incidents being committed by men in cars bearing diplomatic license plates.
The actions left local residents – including those who actively protested in favor of Ukraine, and others simply offended by the “arrogant behavior” of Russian guests in their communities – publicly questioning whether Russian visas should be waived. revoked or even embassies closed.
On August 1, a video went viral at the Russian Embassy in Washington DC, sparking condemnation and disgust from the international community. Protesters had photographed young children quietly laying sunflowers outside the embassy gates. Minutes later, an embassy employee was caught on video getting out of a car with diplomatic plates, to trample the flowers.
Another diplomatic incident has since taken place in Ottawa, in front of the Russian embassy in the capital. A children’s bicycle painted yellow and blue has been fixed to a city pole in the street, in memory of the nearly 400 Ukrainian children killed by Russian bombing since February 24. Around midnight on the night of August 16, embassy staff were captured on camera by a local resident vandalizing the memorial with black paint and were accused of painting the letter “Z” on the property of the city.
When Ottawa resident and speechwriter Peter O’Neil confronted the “sneering, cackling diplomat brats” and called them “supporters of war crimes” as he photographed them, an embassy employee replied with a vulgar sexual understatement.
Ottawa citizens have expressed outrage on social media following the latest incident of vandalism, calling for the perpetrators to be evicted.
“Suspected Russians are now vandalizing the streets of Ottawa,” proclaimed one.
“Close the Russian Embassy NOW. No more visas and send these Russians back to Russia,” reads another.
“Russian ‘diplomats’ committing acts of hate-motivated vandalism yet to be acted upon by Canadian authorities, perhaps worth a story?” asked another citizen, tagging local reporters at CBC, Global, CTV and the Ottawa Police.
On the morning of August 17, dozens of Twitter posts tagged Ottawa Police, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly with images of the nighttime vandalism.
The day before, sunflowers planted in April by the Ukrainian diaspora in front of the Russian embassy were also destroyed, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States said. @OMarkarova said. pic.twitter.com/9WMo0yMnTN
– NEXT (@nexta_tv) August 2, 2022
Challenge among Ukraine supporters
The Canadian Russian Embassy is located on Free-Libre Ukraine Street, the section of Charlotte Street renamed by Ottawa City Council in March 2022 in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A core group of protesters who gather outside the embassy in the Canadian capital remain extremely active even after nearly six months, gathering daily to wave Ukrainian flags and blast embassy staff with a megaphone playlist that includes the Ukrainian national anthem, “Bayraktar”. and “Stefania”.
The group is made up of a wide cross section of Ukrainian Canadians, Ukrainians living in Canada and non-Ukrainian Canadians who simply condemn genocide, gang rape and other war crimes.
Local residents of all stripes have remained firmly supportive of the protesters in the months since Russia launched its all-out invasion, with many continuing to pump their fists, flash peace signs or honk their horns in solidarity. as they pass the famous curve in the street. in front of the embassy. As such, the embassy these days is regularly seen draped in a large banner that reads “STOP PUTIN’S WAR”.
Meanwhile, the ominous doors of the Russian Embassy remain stained with winter red paint, despite what protesters report as an attempt at ‘nuclear-level chemical cleaning’ to finally ‘cleanse’ them for the events of the Victory Day. Red stains from paintballs and traces of rotten eggs are still visible on the upper windows and balustrades of the imposing building.
Poker faces – but some embassy staff are clearly troubled
After nearly six months of daily action, protesters in Ottawa describe embattled embassy staff as mostly uncommunicative, albeit with occasional glares and sneers directed at them.
As one consistent protester, Angela Kalyta, reports from daily interactions with embassy staff over many months: “Now we know their faces. We also have nicknames for each of them. Many of them frown. But there are a lot of “true believers” in there who, if they talk to us, are just repeating Russian propaganda.
Members of the Ottawa group identified the man in the August 16 Twitter photo as one of the executives they called “True Believers” – a staff member who will argue with and insult protesters.
At the same time, Kalyta reports occasional instances where protesters were able to “reach out” to embassy staff: “There are a lot of straight faces, but we also had some interesting interactions. We can see that some members of the staff have great difficulty working on this side of the fence.”
In particular, Kalyta mentions a female embassy staff member who betrayed her emotion at a large protest in May against mass rapes by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. “When they drive off and we yell ‘send your rapists home’, you could see some of the staff were having trouble with that.”
Kalyta notes, however, that even those who might show signs of consciousness are paralyzed. “Of course, they can’t say anything. One of them spoke to one of us and then said, “Now I have to write a report because I interacted with you”, before running away. So even if they support us, they absolutely cannot express it in any way.
From those who might harbor silent sympathy to vandals who destroy memorials and hurl abusive language at residents, Russian embassies around the world are apparently made up of a cross section of workers, from bureaucrats to propagandists and outright writers. .
In this hot summer of viral incidents – such as Ukrainians being assaulted by Russians in European capitals, and the European Union finally discussing visa bans in response – the state of diplomatic relations between Russia and the countries of North America is also under scrutiny.