At the beginning of April, the Russian Embassy in Italy acquired a new head. Alexey Paramonov, who has a good understanding of Southern European affairs and the Italian language, replaced Sergei Razov, who was finishing his term. Before leaving for the mission in Italy, 61-year-old A. Paramonov headed the Department of Southern Europe of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and held the post of consul general in Milan for five years.
Changes have also taken place in the Vatican. May 16 Ivan Soltanovskis became the new ambassador to the Holy See. He replaced his outgoing colleague Aleksandar Avdeyev, who took office in 2012. at the end, a few months before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
The new appointment happened extremely quickly, in less than a week. Such an urgent replacement of the long-time ambassador A. Avdeyev unequivocally shows how important it is for Russia to maintain a functioning line of communication with the Vatican. According to Aleteia.org, I. Soltanovskis is well versed in European security issues and skilfully dives into the multilateral context. These qualities of his are strategically important for the mission in the Vatican.
A. Avdeev – having found the key to the Pope’s heart
But I. Soltanovsky is more technocratic than his predecessor, the 80-year-old former Russian culture minister and ambassador to France, who managed to build a relationship of trust and mutual respect with the pope. In recent months, the Pope has publicly praised A. Avdeev several times, describing him as “a humanist, a person fighting for equality.”
When the war started, A. Avdeev really played an important diplomatic role in Rome. in 2022 On February 25, a few hours after the conflict began, the pontiff, breaking protocol, visited the diplomat at his embassy on Via della Consolazione, right across from St. Peter’s Square. Francis asked the ambassador to personally deliver to Moscow a call to end the war. It was a strong and unambiguous symbolic gesture.
Continuing his personal peace diplomacy, Pope Francis has repeatedly mediated humanitarian issues. He has handed over several lists of Ukrainian prisoners to the Russian ambassador, asking for a prisoner exchange. According to the Italian press, during the ambassador’s farewell visit on May 11 the Pope handed A. Avdeyev another list of Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia.
I. Soltanovsky is publicly considered a confidant of the Kremlin, loyal to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. It was I. Soltanovskis, as a permanent representative to the Council of Europe, who ensured that the patriarch in 2019 in March, he would participate in several meetings in the European Council, including with the Commissioner responsible for human rights, Dunja Mijatovič.
The day after the appointment, Ambassador I. Soltanovskis visited the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, where he met with its head, Metropolitan Antonius. The report later stated that the Metropolitan discussed various issues of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue with the ambassador, as well as various topics of mutual concern. The meeting was attended not only by the department’s colleague Archimandrite Filaret, but also by KA Nemudrov, the attaché of the First European Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It is known that I. Soltanovski was dismissed from his position in the Council of Europe by presidential decree last November, when Moscow withdrew from this institution. Less than two weeks before Russia’s decision, Boris Tarasyuk, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, told reporters he had never spoken to “Tsar Putin’s puppet,” referring to the Russian ambassador, whom he also called a liar. Such emotions were expressed by the Ukrainian diplomat after two days of negotiations, after which the Committee of Ministers announced that Russia would immediately suspend its membership in the Council of Europe.
I. Soltanovsky, 68, is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a prestigious hothouse for Russian diplomats with its headquarters a few steps away from the academy, once part of the KGB and now the FSB intelligence agency. It was here that both A. Avdeev and A. Paramonov graduated, unlike S. Razov, who graduated from Moscow State University. For seven years (since 2015), he was a permanent representative in the Council of Europe.
Having entered the diplomatic service in 1977, he worked in various ministries, embassies and consulates of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation in Pakistan and India. From 1993 to 1996 – adviser in the Department of Security Affairs and Disarmament, and later worked for several years in the OSCE mission in Vienna. 2000-2003 was the head and director of the Department of Security Affairs and Disarmament, and since 2003 until 2009 – Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO. Since 2009 until 2015, he worked in the European Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He was awarded the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (2016). He was awarded the II degree medal of the Order “For Services to the Fatherland” (1996) and many other awards. Speaks English, French, Urdu, German and Spanish.
On the eve of the meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Pope Francis in the Vatican, May 12, Italian daily Il Messaggero reported another attempt by the pontiff to reach V. Putin. During A. Avdeyev’s farewell visit, Francis handed the ambassador a personal letter addressed to the President of Russia. This is not the first time that Francis tried to contact Putin through A. Avdeyev. The Pope has repeatedly praised the diplomat in public. “My relationship with Russia is mainly related to this ambassador,” Francis has said.
Despite the Pope’s friendliness towards the ambassador, there were moments of tension. For example, when the diplomat protested the pontiff’s words about the brutality of the Russian army in Ukraine: “I expressed my indignation at such insinuations and emphasized that nothing can shake the concentration and unity of the multinational nation of Russia,” A. Avdeyev told the agency Ria Novosti.
The request to establish contact with V. Putin will also be forwarded to A. Soltanovski during the next audience, when the ambassador will hand over the credentials to the Pope.
The Pope’s peace mission?
The appointment of the new ambassador was announced in the same week that rumors of a papal peace mission to Russia spread.
Pope Francis on April 30 while returning from Budapest, he spoke about the peace mission in Ukraine. Both the Ukrainian and Russian sides later said they knew nothing of a similar initiative, although Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin tried to help both sides recall the information provided.
May 13 during his visit to the Vatican, President V. Zelensky clearly said that the Pope’s mediation is not necessary. He invited Francis to support the peace formula, which was prepared by the Ukrainian government itself. It was agreed to direct attention and efforts to humanitarian aid, especially the return of Ukrainian children deported or transferred to Russia.
But in recent days on the Italian portal Il Sismografo news appeared about two papal envoys, one to Kyiv, the other to Moscow. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, is indicated as a possible envoy in Kyiv. He actively participated in St. Egidio community in mediation for peace in Mozambique. Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the current Prefect of the Dicastery of the Eastern Churches, who is well acquainted with the Russian world and who was chosen by the Pope to be the envoy to Belarus after the crisis over Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, then Archbishop of Minsk, was considered a suitable envoy to Moscow, when he was not allowed to return to the country. It is said that Mr. Gugerotti has a good relationship with the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, which he established while he was a nuncio in this country.
May 19 In a sharp statement released by the Dicastery of Eastern Churches, Archbishop C. Gugerotti denied this information. However, the very next day Cardinal Zuppi’s peace mission was approved, which will be carried out in consultation with the State Secretariat.
No special messenger is confirmed to be sent. The idea would be reminiscent of sending Cardinal Roger Etchegary to Iraq in 2003, America’s Gerald O’Connell says.
Despite various speculations, at the meeting of the heads of state of the Council of Europe held in Reykjavík, the Holy See once again called for a creative search for a peaceful solution, and the Holy See, according to Card. Mr. Parolino, wants to contribute to a final and just peace.
In October, St. Card. Mr. Zuppi told the audience that without dialogue, only weapons remain. “However, the dialogue in no way treats all motives as equal, does not exclude the question of responsibility, and never confuses the aggressor and the victim,” he said. Stopping the exponential spiral of war is only possible by admitting the truth.
Prepared by Saulena Žiugždaitė according to the foreign press.
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Tags: Russian ambassador throne-