Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 24, 2023


QUESTION: Up front now, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. And Ambassador, I really appreciate your time, and it’s great to see you. So you were there today with Sergey Lavrov, and I’m curious what your reaction was being in that room and what it’s like to be in the same room with him.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, that was the epitome of irony and hypocrisy to have the Foreign Minister of Russia chairing the Security Council meeting on multilateralism. Multilateralism when Russia has in their unilateral, unprovoked action against Ukraine attacked everything that the UN Charter stands for, and everything that we value as members of the United Nations. So I held up the Charter. And I read parts of the Charter to remind him of what that Charter means. And every single member of the Council talked about their support for the Charter, so he was really out of place there today.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense as to – and obviously he’s been a longtime foreign minister, right? He’s dealt with negotiations with John Kerry on things, right, over the years. Do you think that he is all in? Is there any part of him that gets it or no?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t speak for him. But I hope that listening to the members of the Council today that he got something. And what he got was, from the Secretary-General to almost every single member of the Council, supporting the values that underpin the UN Charter and criticizing Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and their independence.

QUESTION: So I mentioned that police officer, right? Seven years in prison, right, for criticizing the war in a private phone conversation. They tapped his phone. We obviously know about the father, right, of a girl who had painted a Ukrainian flag in school, right? He’s in prison. She’s in an orphanage. Right? And these examples – there are more and more and more of them.

There are also Americans held in penal colonies and prisons in Russia right now. Elizabeth Whelan is the sister of one of them, Paul Whelan. He is wrongfully imprisoned. He’s been there for years. You introduced her to the UN today. So she was there. She spoke, and Lavrov was in the room. You said you wanted for him to look into her eyes to see the suffering, right, that she’s going through, right, with the loss of her brother. She told CNN that Lavrov did look at her. You asked him to do so, and that he actually did. We don’t have video of it, but she said that that happened. What do you make of that? That he would actually do that?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think he felt the pressure. I didn’t see him. What I was concentrating on was my statement. But I do know that when I turned to him and said, “You should look into her eyes,” he was pretending to read, and he did look up. And so I am pleased that she saw him look at her. So that he could feel her pain, and could feel her suffering not having seen her brother for nearly four years.

QUESTION: And she also mentioned the jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, right? We’ve heard a lot about him. They’re charging him with high crimes of espionage. And there’s – from what we understand from talking to lawyers involved and sources – there’s no imminent resolution to this, and they’re not looking for one. Do you have any idea whether there is anything, anyone, anything specific that Putin wants for Mr. Gershkovich’s return?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know what Putin wants is to use American individuals – private citizens – as political and diplomatic pawns in his aggression against Ukraine. He has not specifically said, I want to trade this or trade that, but he – what he wants to do is use as possible trades for whatever it is he may be trying to achieve. And we’re doing everything possible, Erin, to get all American citizens – to get Evan, to get Paul – released from the terror that they are experiencing being in these penal colonies.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about Sudan before we go. We’ve learned there’s a three-day ceasefire, but obviously you’ve got a country on the brink of civil war. U.S. Embassy evacuated by Special Forces, SEAL Team Six. You know, it sort of harkens back – I remember covering so much what happened in Tripoli, right, and the horrors there, right? The death of an ambassador. So they have been evacuated. But we understand there’s about 16,000 – this is the State Department official estimate of how many Americans remain in Sudan. Are you committed to getting all of them out? Or at this point, it’s sort of if you’re out, you’re out, and if you’re not…?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we’ve made clear, we’ve been making clear for months that Americans should not be traveling to Sudan, and we encouraged Americans to leave before this incident happened. But we are working with the United Nations and supporting those Americans who have expressed the desire to leave. We provided some overhead support to the UN convoy that included American citizens, and we have put some resources to support American citizens leaving Sudan. And during this three-day ceasefire, which we hope holds, we encourage Americans to do what is necessary to ensure that they remain in a safe position.

QUESTION: Right, of course, you can’t force people to do it. And 16,000 people’s a lot of people. Ambassador, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much.