Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Embassy Staff Fears Pink Slips as Red Flag Lowers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Embassy Staff Fears Pink Slips as Red Flag Lowers

Article excerpt

AT the Soviet Embassy's first (and last) Christmas party here last month, the two most popular places for guests to take souvenir snapshots were by the embassy Christmas tree and in front of the massive portrait of state founder Vladimir Lenin, which for decades has graced the ornate second-floor foyer.

Ambassador Viktor Komplektov recounted this observation with his trade-mark belly laugh in a New Year's Eve interview. By the day after New Year's, the ambassador was on his way back to Moscow, likely to be replaced by Russian President Boris Yeltsin's young hand-picked envoy, Andrei Kolosovsky.

And Lenin had vanished from the wall.

Thus the transformation of the grand mansion at 1125 16th Street from Soviet to Russian Embassy took its latest turns.

The changes have been steady, and a bit unsettling to the embassy's 300-person staff. In November, Mr. Kolosovsky, the first deputy foreign minister of the Russian Federation, came to the embassy nominally as a counselor-minister of the Soviet Union, but actually to represent Russia.

About a week before Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's Christmas Day resignation, the embassy began answering to the Russian foreign minister instead of the Soviet foreign minister. The Russian tricolor replaced the red hammer-and-sickle flag on Dec. 26. The staff now answer the phone with, "Russian Embassy."

"We are all wondering what our future will be," says Leonid Dobrokhotov, a political analyst at the embassy. "But we have no time to sit around and worry; we are too busy coordinating shipments of humanitarian aid back to our country."

When President Yeltsin decreed on Dec. 21 that Soviet embassies around the world would become embassies of the Russian Federation, he said the future of personnel from the Soviet Foreign Ministry would be decided within about a month.

Ambassador Komplektov cites statements of assurance from Kozyrev that the Russian Foreign Ministry wants to hold on to "professionals. …

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