WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange keeps trying and failing to move to Russia
For over six years, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has tried repeatedly to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without having to face any potential legal ramifications for skipping bail in the United Kingdom. With each new reported attempt, one destination seems to be at the top of Assange’s list: Russia.
This week, the Associated Press reported that Ecuadorian legislator Paola Vintimilla published documents detailing Ecuador’s plans to not only make Assange an Ecuadorian citizen, but to then appoint Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat and assign him to Moscow.
Assange, whose Twitter privileges were revoked by the embassy earlier this year, reportedly requested Ecuadorian citizenship over a year ago. The documents lay out how the Ecuadorian government expedited Assange’s request, bypassing typical procedures. Assange’s planned position would have been as an Ecuadorian “political counselor,” but it’s unclear what duties, if any, the position would have actually required.
Unfortunately for Assange, the plan fell through when the British Foreign Office announced its opposition. As the documents, published and annotated by ABC, reveal, British authorities “do not consider Mr. Julian Assange to be an acceptable member of the [Ecuadorian] mission.” (It’s unclear how aware Russia was of the diplomatic plans, but Russian diplomats referred to this week’s revelations as “fake news.”)
As such, Assange remains isolated in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.K. — although he can at least keep the company of a cat.
The revelations are the latest in a litany of strange connections linking Assange to the Russian government. In December 2017, around the same time Ecuador attempted to appoint Assange as a diplomat, The Guardian reported that Russian diplomats had “held secret talks in London… to assess whether they could help [Assange] flee the U.K.”
The plan involved “smuggling” Assange out of the embassy, and then presumably to Russia. The operation was unsuccessful.
A few years beforehand, the Associated Press reported that Assange also tried to obtain a Russian visa via a Holocaust denier named Israel Shamir, whom Assange referred to as his “friend.” Shamir revealed that he had obtained the visa, but that it “had come too late to rescue [Assange] from the sex crimes investigation,” the AP wrote.
Finding his way to Russia would make certain sense for Assange. After all, Assange’s WikiLeaks published the emails Russian hackers stole from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a fact detailed in an earlier indictment from the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
And then there’s Assange’s own history of spouting pro-Kremlin propaganda talking points, from claiming that Russian-backed separatists may not have downed Flight MH17 in Ukraine to defending Vladimir Putin during 2016’s Panama Papers revelations, which revealed billions of dollars attached to Putin’s inner circle.
Assange also had a show on the Russian propaganda channel RT a few years ago. Assange’s Twitter feed, which has been run by his legal campaign over the past few months, even tweeted out a link to RT amidst this week’s revelations, rather than link to coverage from other outlets.
— #FreeAssange! (tweets by campaign) (@JulianAssange) October 16, 2018
Some six years into his tenure at the Ecuadorian embassy, and despite his efforts, Assange appears no closer to finding a new home than before. And given that Ecuador’s president isn’t exactly the biggest fan of Assange, the WikiLeaks founder appears to be running out of options.