US State Dept Presser

State Dept Press Briefing – June 27, 2023

25 Min
State Dept Press Briefing – June 27, 2023

The US State department held a press briefing on June 27, 2023 with spokesman Matthew Miller fielding questions from reporters on a wide range of issues

MR MILLER:. Some brief comments before I start. The United States is pleased to host Foreign Minister Mirzoyan of Armenia and Foreign Minister Bayramov of Azerbaijan to facilitate negotiations this week as they continue to pursue a peaceful future for the South Caucasus region. Secretary Blinken was honored to welcome the foreign ministers at the opening meetings this morning at the George P. Schultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center. The Secretary met both individually with each minister, and held a meeting with the two of them together, and emphasized in each meeting that direct dialogue is the key to resolving issues and reaching a durable and dignified peace.

The United States is encouraged by recent efforts of Armenia and Azerbaijan to engage productively on the peace process, and we will continue to assist them any way that we can to build on that momentum. Today was the first day of meetings that will continue through Thursday, and we will have further updates as the week goes on.

And with that —

QUESTION: That’s it?

MR MILLER: That’s it.

QUESTION: Nothing else? Okay. Let me just start by asking you if you’re aware of any developments in Yemen with the embassy employees who –

MR MILLER: I don’t have any updates. We are monitoring the reports of the – regarding the status of detained U.S. and UN Yemeni employees. Obviously, we have been calling for their release and have been working our diplomatic efforts for some time to secure the release of staff and ensure that they are safely reunited with their families, but I don’t have any updates.


QUESTION: Could we go to the Russia-Ukraine –


QUESTION: — conflict? Belarus confirmed today that Prigozhin has come in to Belarus. First of all, is that consistent with what the United States thinks? Does the United States have any reason to doubt that assessment? But more broadly, what does this mean for the United States relationship with Belarus, and has there been any communication with the Lukashenka regime?

MR MILLER: I will say I don’t have any United States assessment to offer about where Yevgeniy Prigozhin may be, but I also don’t have any reason to doubt the announcement made by the Government of Belarus.

With respect to communications, I also don’t have any diplomatic conversations to read out. But I would say, as I said yesterday, and as the Secretary said on Sunday, everywhere that Wagner goes, death and destruction follows in their wake. He has been a destabilizing agent. And so the decision by President Lukashenka to welcome Prigozhin to Belarus, I think, is another example of him choosing the interests of Vladimir Putin and choosing the interests of the Kremlin over the interests of the Belarusian people.

QUESTION: Could I just pursue that, just slightly? The – obviously, there is a bit of a different dynamic than, say, Mali or the Central African Republic. But the – I mean, do you think he should be persona non grata – he, meaning Prigozhin? Should – in the United States’ view, should the Lukashenka regime be welcoming him in?

MR MILLER: I would say in terms of this – the disposition of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, he’s under indictment in the United States. We would like to see him here standing trial for the crimes that he is alleged to have committed.

I will just repeat what I said, which is that the decision by Lukashenka to welcome him to Belarus does show that he continues to take steps not in the interest of his own people but in the interest of the Kremlin.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.


QUESTION: Do you have an assessment on where Wagner fighters are? Are they back in Ukraine? Are they going to Belarus?

MR MILLER: I do not have any specific assessment to make about the – where Wagner fighters are. Consistent with what we’ve said for a long time, we’re not going to talk about developments on the battlefield or specific disposition of Russian troops in Ukraine.

I will say, as I said yesterday, we continue to closely track Wagner’s activities, both in Ukraine and in Africa, and in wherever in the world they may operate. We continue to look closely at the actions they take that are against the interests of the countries where they operate, and we will take – continue to take actions to hold them accountable. And, in fact, we will have further announcements to make on holding Wagner accountable in the very near future.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, please?


QUESTION: Putin revealed that Russian state has been funding Wagner, and state of Russia has been engaging in terrorism sponsoring, obviously. Does it change the calculus on your end to finally saying it out loud?

MR MILLER: To say out loud —

QUESTION: That Russia is a terrorist state.

MR MILLER: Whatever you call Wagner group, I think what’s important are the steps that we take to hold them accountable. And the United States has taken another – number of steps to hold Wagner accountable in imposing sanctions, in – as I said, indicting the head of Wagner, Yevgeniy Prigozhin. And we will continue to take steps to hold them accountable. I don’t think the label is important – is as important as what we do.

And I would say stay tuned. In the very near future you will see additional steps by the United States to hold them accountable for actions they’ve taken.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Just (inaudible) of process, what else are we needing – what else do we need here, if Putin himself goes off and talks about how he sponsors the terrorism?

MR MILLER: Again, as I said, I don’t think the label is as important as the actions we take, and we have taken actions to hold Wagner accountable and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: A follow-up after that one, please?

QUESTION: Thank you. You said very – a couple of times that there will be announcements in the very near future. What does that look like? Is that sanctions?

MR MILLER: I would just say stay tuned. They will come very soon.

QUESTION: Is that something this week?

MR MILLER: Yes, this week.

QUESTION: Just following up on that —

MR MILLER: I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: Yeah. Over the weekend and also yesterday, your line was, along with the White House statement, was sort of like somewhere between we have nothing to do with it and we’re just trying to observe what is going on. What next from the U.S. perspective, now that we know what we know since yesterday’s statements came out from both Russian Government and Wagner leadership?

MR MILLER: Well, I would say two things in terms of what’s next. One is that we will continue to take actions to hold Wagner accountable. I just spoke to those a minute ago, and you’ll see something about that, as I said, in the very near future. But the other part of what’s next will continue to be continued U.S. support for Ukraine and continued U.S. support for the Ukrainian military’s work to repel Russian troops, whether they be Ministry of Defense troops, or whether they be Wagner forces, or whether they be whatever the next iteration, if any, of Wagner forces look like to repel those forces from Ukraine’s borders. And just as you will see actions from us in the very near future to hold Wagner accountable, you will see continued actions from us in the very near future to continue to supply the Ukrainian military with the equipment, the military equipment that it needs, to press their case on the battlefield.

QUESTION: Is it time to not just continue but double down your support for Ukraine, abandon the narrative that we don’t want to humiliate Putin now that we know that he actually does respond humiliation differently?

MR MILLER: I don’t even know what that question means. I don’t know how we would – I don’t know how we would support Ukraine any more than we already have.

QUESTION: I can paraphrase.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you —


QUESTION: — about these sanctions that you say are coming on Wagner?

MR MILLER: The actions that are coming?

QUESTION: Yeah. For what, exactly? For withdrawing from Ukraine?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to —

QUESTION: Or for, like —

MR MILLER: I don’t —

QUESTION: — marching on Moscow to —

MR MILLER: These are – these are actions that we are taking against Wagner not in relation to events that happened this weekend, but for their prior activities. And you’ll see the —

QUESTION: In Ukraine or —

MR MILLER: No, in —

QUESTION: — elsewhere?

MR MILLER: In Africa.

QUESTION: Okay. Was that clear in the initial – maybe I missed it. I’m not sure that was clear.

MR MILLER: I didn’t preview —

QUESTION: In Africa, like CAR?

MR MILLER: I did not – I’m not going to say —

QUESTION: Like Mali?

MR MILLER: I’m not – I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement any further, but you’ll see it, as I said, in the very near —


MR MILLER: — in the very near future.

QUESTION: But any sanctions that might be coming this week on Wagner have nothing to do with what happened over the weekend?

MR MILLER: The – I would not want to get ahead of any other announcement that we were considering taking.

QUESTION: Or for the —

MR MILLER: But the announcement I was specifically referring to relate to their actions in Africa.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I – oh, go ahead. I’m just wondering, just based on that question, is there any reason that there would be a U.S. cost imposed on Wagner for what did happen over the weekend? I mean —

MR MILLER: So I wouldn’t want to – again, I never want to preview a sanctions announcement before it happens, other than the one that’s coming in the very near future because it’s a short enough timeframe. But the way that we will – the most effective way the United States continues to hold Wagner accountable and continues to hold Russian military forces accountable is to supply Ukrainians with the very equipment they need to repel Wagner forces and repel the Russian army from their borders. And we will continue to do that.

Any more on Russia before we – go ahead, Janne.

QUESTION: No, not Russia, China. And I have two questions, China and Korea. And thank you, Matt. Chinese Government announced that its espionage law punishment for journalists, scholars, and businessmen to take effect next month. In particular, surveillance of photo media will be strengthened. What can you say about the fact that freedom of press and expression has become more discouraged in China?

MR MILLER: So I’m not – I haven’t reviewed that specific law that you refer to, but I will say we have long expressed concerns about the lack of freedom of expression in China. We’ve expressed concerns broadly about human rights in China. The Secretary made those concerns clear both in his meetings with Chinese officials when we were there, and in his public comments before he left Beijing and since he returned, and will continue to do that.

QUESTION: Just as Russia arrest an American journalist for espionage, can this law be seen as an act to block media that keeps China in check?

MR MILLER: As I said, I’m not familiar with the specific provisions of this law, so I wouldn’t want to comment on what the implications might be.

QUESTION: Last question. U.S. and South Korea Mongolia talks. Do you have any detail of this?

MR MILLER: I do not. I can take that back.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I ask you briefly, on China?


QUESTION: On Deputy Secretary Sherman’s call, I know you released a readout just a few minutes ago. Was there any discussion of planning a visit by the foreign minster, Foreign Minister Qin, to Washington?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to get into the specifics that were discussed beyond what we said in the readout. But as you know, the Secretary, when he was in Beijing, invited the foreign minister to come to Washington. The foreign minister accepted that. We’ve had – continue to have talks with the government in Beijing about when that visit might occur and what it might look like, but we’ve come to no final determinations yet, or they have come to no final determinations yet about when that might be scheduled.

QUESTION: So – but this call, was it – I’m sure it was substantive, but it was – she’s step – she’s retiring in a couple days. Was this more of a kind of —

MR MILLER: No, this was a substantive – this was a substantive call. It was to follow up on the Secretary’s visit. There are a number of conversations that are happening at the – at the subcabinet level now about following up on some of the issues that the Secretary discussed.


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR MILLER: Any – any more?


MR MILLER: I’ll try to – yeah, China.

QUESTION: Has the department come to a decision on who will replace Rick Waters as head of China House, or when can we expect an announcement?

MR MILLER: We have not come to a decision, and I don’t have any announcements to make about when we will make that announcement.

Any more on China before I move – okay. Do you have – oh, do – if you want to – yeah, we’ll go back, and then I’ll – yeah.

QUESTION: Since you mentioned that the U.S. follow the Wagner’s Group operation in Africa, in your point of view, how can the revolt of Wagner affect the security strategy against the militias groups in Central Africa and in Mali?

MR MILLER: So I would say, with respect to Wagner, we would continue to urge any governments who have considered inviting Wagner to operate inside their borders, who have considered security arrangements with Wagner, who have considered any sort of cooperation with Wager at all – we would continue to urge them to not pursue those arrangements.

The Secretary spoke to this on Sunday; I spoke to it yesterday. We believe that everywhere that Wagner goes, they leave death and destruction in their wake. They hurt local populations; they extract minerals and extract money from the communities where they operate. And so we would continue to urge governments in Africa and elsewhere to cease any cooperation with Wanger and not pursue any further.

QUESTION: So in February, the French President Emanuel Macron, he described the deployment of Wagner Group troops in Africa as he mentioned, and I quote, “life insurance of failing regimes in Africa that will only sow misery.” Does the United States agree with this statement?

MR MILLER: Well, as I just said, that we believe that death and destruction follows in their wake. That would certainly equate with sowing misery.


QUESTION: Yeah. What was behind the Troika meeting on Sudan and South Sudan? And should we expect any measures against military leaders in Sudan and against the Government of South Sudan?

MR MILLER: So the meeting of the Troika was to continue to discuss the situation in Sudan. We continue to be concerned by the parties’ frequent violations of the most recent and past ceasefires, their return to fighting after the ceasefire expired. I will just say, as we’ve said before, that we believe there’s no acceptable military solution to the conflict. Facilitators, including the United States, stand ready to reconvene formal talks in Jeddah, but only once the parties demonstrate their commitment to upholding the terms of the Jeddah Declaration. And the interim – we will continue to monitor the situation and continue to consider whether there are other steps that we can take to hold the parties accountable, but I don’t have any specific announcements to make. Obviously we’ve imposed sanctions in the past and won’t hesitate to do so in the future, should it be appropriate to do so.



QUESTION: Can I switch topics and – to talk about your favorite topic: settlements. Now both major Israeli newspapers yesterday or today reported that, in fact, the U.S. is not going back to viewing settlements as being illegal. Is that the position, settlements are not illegal?

MR MILLER: The position I stated yesterday is that we have not changed the policy. We continue to view the expansion of settlements as an impediment to peace, made that position clear on a number of occasions, and we’ll continue to do so.

QUESTION: But both UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 336, which you are a signatory on – in fact, sponsor of – state very clearly that settlements are illegal, everything east of the Green Line is illegal. So you’re not subscribing to that anymore? Certain settlements are legal and certain settlements are illegal – is that the understanding?

MR MILLER: I will say that the United States has not changed its policy. I don’t have any announcements on that front. But our views have been clear and consistent that the expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution; it exacerbate tensions; it further harms trust behind the parties. We strongly oppose the advancement of settlements and urge Israel to refrain from that activity.

QUESTION: What about the sort of legal outposts – there were seven illegal outposts announced I think last week or established by the settlers. Are you aware of that? Did you issue any statement on that?

MR MILLER: We have issued a number of statements about the expansion of settlements in the past few weeks.

QUESTION: But on this – okay.

MR MILLER: I’m – speaking to it now that our views are clear, our views are consistent. I think I’ve asked – spoke – I spoke to this yesterday. I spoke to it this last time I was at the podium —

QUESTION: Okay. Okay —

MR MILLER: — that we believe these expansions of settlements are —

QUESTION: But still there seems to be some confusion.

MR MILLER: — an impediment to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Okay. If you just allow me, indulge me, just two more questions. One on that status of the —

MR MILLER: Always, Said. Always.

QUESTION: Thank you. I appreciate it. And I thank my colleagues as well.

MR MILLER: Yeah. It’s their indulgement. Yeah, it’s not mine.

QUESTION: So on the office of the Palestinian – I mean, the American envoy to the Palestinians, has there been any change in the status of that office? There has been calls by certain congressmen to actually abolish that office. Are you aware of that?

MR MILLER: I have seen those calls. And I will say that that office does very important work on our diplomatic efforts in the region, and we think it’s important that it continue to be allowed to advance that work.

QUESTION: And lastly, I want to ask about the visa waiver. I know you spoke about this exhaustively, but bear with me, because —

MR MILLER: Not exhaustively enough, apparently.

QUESTION: Apparently not, no. (Laughter.) There’s always something new. Anyway – so the confusion on – I know that all citizens must be – all American citizens must be treated equally and so on upon entry. What about travel within the West Bank? What is happening, because there are checkpoints and so on.

MR MILLER: So we made clear that, with respect to the Visa Waiver Program, that we continue to work with Israel towards fulfilling all of the requirements.

QUESTION: Right. Right.

MR MILLER: That includes extending reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans, to travel to and through Israel.

QUESTION: What about U.S citizens who are – whose families are in Gaza? They can travel to Ben Gurion, and if they take the Erez crossing – I don’t know if you know the geography, but —

MR MILLER: So you’re going to get – you’re getting a little further in the weeds than I think I’m able to go at this point, but generally speaking, we believe that one of the requirements of participation in the Visa Waiver Program is that all U.S. citizens and nationals be able to travel to and through Israel.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. I have two questions, but if you allow me, I’ll ask the third one.

MR MILLER: If you allow me – if I allow you, you’ll what, ask a third one? So you have three questions?


MR MILLER: Fair enough.

QUESTION: But if you – so my first question is that could the Secretary have saved the President from embarrassment on a state dinner with Modi when he was asked by the Washington – by The Wall Street journalist that the President was overlooking human rights violations in India? I mean, I’ve asked this question. So the President was asked that, if he was overlooking the human rights violation in India.


QUESTION: And I’ve asked this question on this podium here too, that, like, it’s not about India. It was particularly about President Modi, that it deserved from your podium just condemnation of what has been going on in India for last few years.

MR MILLER: So I will say – and I did speak to this yesterday – that the – we always raise human rights issues and human rights concerns in our – at senior levels in our engagements with foreign governments. You saw the President in the press conference to which you are referring speak to human rights issues in India. So we will continue to raise those issues privately, and we’ll continue to speak to them publicly.

QUESTION: My second question is regarding – there was an interview done of former Prime Minister Imran Khan by Voice of America journalists recently in Pakistan. And this briefing also has international state-owned media news – media outlets as well. I’m sure you are aware state-owned media outlets perform from certain international norms and decorum. The journalist asked prime minister – former Prime Minister Imran Khan that do you still say that the cipher was a reality? And Imran Khan, while referring to Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of state, who had a meeting with the Ambassador Hale – Imran Khan said that, yes, the cipher is a reality. And so now it has become a responsibility of State Department to disclose at least the notes that were taken, because the ambassador and Mr. Donald Lu must have had somebody present in the room. Are you going to disclose those documents?

MR MILLER: We are really going down a rabbit hole here, I think. We’ve spoken to this before.



QUESTION: But now this legally —

MR MILLER: Hold on – let me —

QUESTION: — changes the scenario, by the way.

MR MILLER: It – I don’t believe it does. I will just continue to reiterate that those claims are not accurate. So —

QUESTION: No, but did you know that in – legally in the U.S. —

MR MILLER: Did you have one further question?

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much.


QUESTION: My last question is about – and I asked this question for Mr. Ned Price as well, and he said he was going to get back to me. So a few U.S. —

MR MILLER: Well, it’s been a few months. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, but nothing – I’ve heard not back anything yet. So I’m just reminding that maybe you – (laughter) – so there’s this big corporate entity called Publicis, which is an advertising agency, and in the U.S. they have an online company called Commission Junction. In their contract it says that we do not abide by the United Nations laws of doing trade of business. Does this not create an investment for the U.S. State Department when a U.S. multibillion-dollar industry says that we are doing business not keeping in view the United Nation trade laws? And I asked Ned – and if you don’t have a question, I would appreciate if you can get back to me on it.

MR MILLER: I will admit that I am not aware of this issue, so I’ll take it back.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I would like to follow up on the questions raised by Matt Lee yesterday regarding the involvement of former U.S. official from the previous administration in mediating the release of the three Kosovo police officers. I was told today that it was not a U.S. former official from the previous administration, but in fact Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who played a role in which decision to release the Kosovo policemen. So can you provide any updates on this matter, in the context of what Matt asked today and the updates I have today, and whose diplomacy is responsible for the release?

MR MILLER: So I will not put myself in the position of speaking for former administration officials. I have a big enough job already. I will speak for the United States Government and what we did, which is call for the release of those three police officers. And as I said yesterday, we were pleased to see their release. As is often the case, success has a thousand fathers, and whatever the ultimate reason the authorities – whatever the ultimate reason was that caused the authorities to release those three police officers, we were happy to see it happen.

You’ve already had a few. Let me – go ahead, and I’ll – we’ll come back to the front in a bit.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My question is about the state of the Iranian frozen funds in South Korea. I want to know where we are standing now about that money, because what we are hearing at the moment is that, at least from the U.S. perspective, that that money is pretty much tied to the nuclear talks or whatever you want to call it. I might say the compromises that the Islamic Republic should make – is it tied to that? And where are we standing when it comes to that topic?

MR MILLER: I don’t – I don’t have any updates to share on this matter. I will say, as I’ve said before, that we continue to work to secure the release of detainees as it pertains to Iran and we continue to believe that diplomacy is the best path for ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. I know that there are a lot of reports, there continues to be a lot of swirl around this question, but I don’t have any updates to share.

QUESTION: So no progress since last week?

MR MILLER: I have no updates at all to share.

I’ll go to someone that hasn’t had one yet. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Yesterday, nearly half of (inaudible) from Iraqi Kurdistan parliament resigned, and they don’t have an active electoral commission now, and the Iraqi electoral commission, they are not ready to do an election in Iraqi Kurdistan. My question is that how do you see a Kurdistan region of Iraq without a parliament, and as there’s no certainty about when and how the region is going to have a free and fair election? And do you have any engagement with the Kurdistan region president on this election affairs?

MR MILLER: Let me take that one back, only because I’m not aware of those specific developments.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: In the back.

QUESTION: Ukraine. Black Sea grain deal will be finished by July 18th, and yesterday UN agencies warn of impact if Black Sea grain deal ends. And at the same time, one of the senior Ukrainian diplomats said that they are sure that Russia will not extend that deal. Any coordination with Türkiye and United Nations from the U.S. side?

MR MILLER: So I will not speak to private diplomatic conversations but I will say, as we’ve said before, that we believe the Black Sea Grain Initiative has yielded tremendous benefits for the world. It’s an important initiative to ensure that food continues to flow out of Ukraine to the parts of the world that depend on it. And we have seen Russia continue to make threats to withdraw from the grain initiative almost since the very day they signed on to the first iteration. And so we would hope that Russia would stop making these threats, that it would comply with the obligations it agreed to, and continue to allow food to flow.

Russia talks a lot about the Global South and talks about other countries in the world and its supposed – supposedly how much it cares about those countries. If it’s true, then it will stop threatening to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

QUESTION: And any details for the potential $500 million aid package to Ukraine? Do you have any details?

MR MILLER: I – as I mentioned earlier, we do have another aid package coming very shortly, but I don’t want to get ahead of that.

QUESTION: They announced it.

MR MILLER: They announced while I was at the podium? So very shortly indeed. (Laughter.)

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure – and (inaudible) on this – I wanted to ask you about the talks today, Armenia and Azerbaijan.


QUESTION: Just in terms of specifically what’s you’re looking to or what the administration is looking for from this, there have been – there’s been a lot of concern about the Lachin corridor connecting Karabakh. Is that going to be one of the focal points? Is there any specific ask of the two parties?

MR MILLER: So I wouldn’t want to get into specific asks that we’re making in what are obviously confidential diplomatic negotiations. I will say that we continue to believe that peace is within reach. We’ve hosted these two parties before. The Secretary has talked to both foreign ministers on a number of occasions. We think the meetings are important this week. We think it’s important that they show progress. And so I’m going to wait to pass judgement on what happens until these three days of meetings conclude, but we do think that peace is within reach if the two parties will put aside their differences.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that.


QUESTION: With the caveat that today’s the first day of the talks, can you help us on how high we can set our expectations?

MR MILLER: I don’t think I want to do expectation setting from here. I probably wouldn’t be successful even if I did.

QUESTION: Was the Secretary satisfied with what he heard from both sides this morning?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to give any readout before the talks occur. As I said, it – he – as I said at the beginning, he thought they were important meetings that he had with each of them. He met with them individually and met with them collectively. But I think we’ll wait until the end of the week to talk about how the talks went.

QUESTION: So you’re not going to say anything new, are you?

MR MILLER: I don’t think we want to talk about talks one-third of the way through. Probably not – it’s only 2 o’clock – probably not even one-third of the way through.

QUESTION: Okay. The second question, if I may. It was noted today that – it’s on Russia – that a special plane left Moscow this morning to Washington. There are speculations that it is for picking up Russian diplomats. What do you know about that?

MR MILLER: That’s true. It was to pick up Russian diplomats.

QUESTION: How many and any details about —

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to the exact numbers. I’ll let the Russian Federation decide whether they want to speak to the number of what are, of course, their diplomats. I’d say diplomatic personnel routinely rotate in and out of assignments. That’s what happened here. The U.S. Government allowed the Russian Government to send a charter flight to the United States to transport to Russia those Russian diplomats whose assignments have ended. And I’ll say we maintain strict reciprocity with Russia regarding special transport missions for diplomatic personnel and cargo, and we are maintaining diplomatic courtesies, such as this, for the Russian diplomatic mission. And in exchange for granting these courtesies, we expect Russia to maintain open transport for our diplomats and cargo to our embassy in Moscow.

QUESTION: Thank you.



QUESTION: Can I ask you a question —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: — on the global – I see you mentioned the Global South a minute ago. Okay. Now, last week there was a conference in Paris, the financial conference of Paris, and a lot of ideas were thrown around. The African countries complained that so much aid was given to Ukraine, for instance, while not enough aid was given to them. One of the ideas thrown about was actually to tax shipping and tax polluters and so on. Would something like this be supported by the United States to actually raise enough money to help the Global South?

MR MILLER: So I won’t speak to that specific proposal. I will say with – as it pertains to Africa, Africa continues to be a priority for the Biden-Harris administration. We’ve talked with a – with respect to a number of different African countries over the last several weeks about how the United States – for example, in the Horn of Africa – is the largest humanitarian donor. We believe that Africa plays a critical role in advancing global priorities to the benefit of Africans and Americans. It continues to be, as I said, a focus for the administration. But with respect to that specific proposal, I have not reviewed it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Matt, did you want to ask something a minute ago?

QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about the UN special rapporteur’s visit to Guantanamo and the – and the findings. And I’ve seen your initial comments about what she had to say, in which you talk about how this is demonstrative of this administration’s commitment to transparency, but yet you disagree with pretty much everything she had to say about the – or a lot, at least, of what she had to say about the treatment of prisoners there. The line in it here that I’m looking at says, “The United States disagrees in significant respects with…factual and legal assertions the [special rapporteur] has made.”

So what factual and legal assertions do you disagree with?

MR MILLER: For example, the special rapporteur said that we have not provided adequate rehabilitation to torture victims at Guantanamo. I would say we are sensitive to the unique medical, including physical and psychological, needs of the individuals who remain in detention at that facility, and onsite physicians are highly trained and skilled in providing for all the physical and mental health care needs of the detainee population, and we bring in additional highly trained experts to provide specialized treatment as is needed.

QUESTION: Okay. So that – this, then, suggests – your response just now suggests that, as the Obama administration did, the Biden administration thinks that some of – at least some of these detainees were tortured.

MR MILLER: The United States Government has said that in the past, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this administration is saying it now?

MR MILLER: We have – I – we have not announced any change in that.

QUESTION: Okay. So – okay, okay. But your transparency – the other thing is that your transparency contrasts starkly with the behavior of other countries, which take great pains to conceal their activities from the outside world. And you would say that even though you disagree with the rapporteur’s findings, that this is still a demonstration of transparency and accountability?

MR MILLER: I would.


MR MILLER: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: So Polish President Duda today expressed concern about the security implications for Poland and for the eastern flank in regards to the announced Wagner relocation to Belarus. Do you share those concerns and do you think that requires some sort of adjustment in posture or beefing up of the eastern flank?

And if I may, additional.


QUESTION: On the security package that was announced today, do you know if ATACMS missiles are included in this? Because the Ukrainians seemed to suggest so.

MR MILLER: The Ukrainians seemed what?

QUESTION: Seemed to suggest so, but I mean – and —

MR MILLER: I don’t – so I don’t have the – I don’t believe they are. I don’t have the package in front of me.


MR MILLER: It was apparently released while I was at the podium.

QUESTION: Oh, it’s not mentioned in the readout.

MR MILLER: Yeah, then if it’s not mentioned in that list, then it’s not included. I will say that the – this package of security assistance was designed precisely to support the needs of the ongoing counteroffensive. You might see that demining equipment, for example, was included in this package along with other – a host of specific pieces of equipment, because we have been in contact with the Ukrainian Government, the Ukrainian military – those talks have been led through the Pentagon, of course – about what assistance we can get them now that would be most helpful on the battlefield.

QUESTION: And can you – on Belarus?

MR MILLER: Oh, with – and then, right, with respect to Poland. So I would just say that I would restate my previous comments about the impact of Wagner wherever it goes, and would reiterate that since the beginning of this conflict, one of the things that the President has made abundantly clear is that we will protect our NATO Allies. The President and the other NATO Allies made adjustments to troop posture at the beginning of this conflict to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, but I don’t have any specific updates to share at this point.



QUESTION: So you wanted to reiterate the “death and destruction” remark? Are you suggesting that death and destruction will follow Wagner to Belarus?

MR MILLER: Well, we’ll see whether it’s Wagner forces or whether it’s Yevgeniy Prigozhin. We don’t have any specific assessment on that, but I would say certainly he is a destabilizing agent wherever he goes.

Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, I was late. I don’t know if you spoke already about this. The Secretary on his interviews on Sunday said we didn’t – he doesn’t believe that we saw the final scene in Russia between Russia and Ukraine – sorry, between Russia and Wagner. But given the speed and the nature of how things took place, are you preparing or making plans to deal with a post-Putin Russia?

MR MILLER: So with respect to his comments about the final chapter, I think you’ve seen – even since he made those comments on Sunday, additional developments have taken place. You’ve seen President Putin talk, you’ve seen Yevgeniy Prigozhin announce – or I should say you’ve seen the Belarusian Government announce that Prigozhin is actually in Belarus, and I’m sure we will continue to see updates.

But with respect to Russia, I will reiterate what I said again yesterday, which is the United States takes no position on who the leader of Russia should be. We take no position on who should be the head of the ministry of defense. This is ultimately an internal Russia matter in which the United States is not involved and will not involve itself.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: I’ll come back to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. So Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has announced that he will not be holding presidential elections in 2024 if martial law is still instated. Does the U.S. support this decision?

MR MILLER: I have not seen that announcement. I want to look at the specifics of it.

Go to you and then we’ll wrap up.

QUESTION: Yes. So as we know, Wagner Groups are at least in eight countries in Africa. Can you speak a little bit about the work of United States in those countries where Wagner are conducting operations?

MR MILLER: So I won’t speak specifically with – to each of those eight countries or other countries where they may be operating. We’ve put out a number of information over the last year or so about the United – about Wagner’s destabilizing activities in those countries and the implications of Wagner’s activities in those countries. The Secretary has spoken to it, and we have taken a number of actions to respond to Wagner’s activities in those countries, and we’ll be taking actions – further actions, as I said, in the very near future. Didn’t happen before I left the podium. This happened with the other announcement I previewed, but it’ll be happening very soon, and I’ll defer further comment to that.

QUESTION: So those sanctions or those upcoming actions that United States will be taking will be against the African nations or Wagner Group?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak specifically to them other than to say you’ll see the announcements when they’re made.

Thank you, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)

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