Russian Embassy in Costa Rica Under Siege

The Russian embassy in Costa Rica has been taken over by some guy with a gun.

An armed Uzbek man took Russia’s ambassador and seven other people hostage Friday at the Russian Embassy in Costa Rica, police said. Security forces quickly surrounded the building in San Jose, the capital, police spokesman Francisco Ruiz told The Associated Press. Authorities were trying to negotiate with the gunman.

Ruiz said the man, between 17 and 20 years old from Uzbekistan, entered the embassy with his mother and took Ambassador Valery Nikolayenko and four other men and three women hostage. The Costa Rica TV network, Telenoticias, reported that the man and his family have lived in Costa Rica for about a year.

How does a single gunman take over an embassy? I know the Russian military isn’t what it once was, but surely they can put an armed sentry at the door?

FILED UNDER: Latin America, Uncategorized, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. And: is it terrorism? 😉

  2. Anderson says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s Kazakhstani, and that this is just part of the filming of Borat II.

  3. kenny says:

    well the Russian embassy in Costa rica isn’t exactly their most important diplomatic post.

    And generally countries don’t have armed guards on their embassies, it kind of defeats the point of the exercise.

  4. randall says:

    It’s the fault of the Bush Administration, like every problem in every country of the world, it can all be tied to W.

  5. Anderson says:

    Probably they haven’t paid the sentry since 2002.

  6. Burkeman1 says:

    How does a gunman take over an Embassy?

    Well, I can see why Americans might have trouble understanding how something like that could happen- considering every American embassy in the world is a concrete barrier enclosed, razor wire ringed bunker with snipers posted on the roofs.

    Most other countries are normal and their Embassies are not outposts of the Empire.

    The Daily Burkeman1

  7. James Joyner says:

    Most other countries are normal and their Embassies are not outposts of the Empire.

    I understand how a band of terrorists can do it, ala Teheran in 1979. Or how someone with heavy weapons, even, could do it. But, surely, even the embassies of the least controversial countries have some minimal level of security to deal with, say, robberies or kidnapping attempts? At least one or two armed guards?

  8. Mark says:

    This was not just one lone man. He did have his mother with him. A mom can make all the difference between a successful embassy hostage taking and failure…

  9. Burkeman1 says:

    I imagine the same way a bank robber takes over a bank- by telling the one or two guards to get down on the ground like everyone else.

    Every bank in America could, if they wanted, make bank robberies impossible by adopting the security norms of the US government in its diplomatic facilities overseas. But, as requiring their customers to go through humiliating searches and intimidating “Check points” and staffing their banks with black jump suited, armor clad, private commandos with automatic weapons would drive away more business than money they lose in bank robberies- it is a risk they easily prefer to absorb.

    It would seem the Russians don’t see the need to turn the faces of their country abroad into menacing little fortresses as the US has.

  10. James Joyner says:

    It would seem the Russians don’t see the need to turn the faces of their country abroad into menacing little fortresses as the US has.

    It would seem they are in error.

  11. Burkeman1 says:

    It would seem they are in error.

    No, it would seem they are not prone to hysterics and overkill that would turn their foreign embassies into menacing militarized eye sores in the hearts of capitals all over the world in a silly and bizarre quest for total security that basically defeats the purpose of even having foreign offices.

    And since they resemble military fortresses now anyway- why not just close them down entirely and dispense with the pretense that State is anything but an empty shell- devoid of real power? Every apparatchik in Washington knows (as do all foreign diplomats) that American military theater commanders and the bureaucratic structures they have created as a parallel competitor with state- is the real power.

    You want a work visa? Lose your passport overseas? Have a question about foreign nationals marrying Americans? Go to an American embassy. That stuff is right up State’s alley.

    Want to talk turkey about US policy with a person of real power? Go to the nearest representation of the US Theater Commander.