Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

March 2, 2017

Question: Can you comment on US media reports regarding contacts between US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak during the US election campaign?

Maria Zakharova: As a character in a famous work of fiction said, “It’s something shameful.” The current goings-on in the Western, including US, media can be described as media vandalism. I wonder if the Western media has reached the rock bottom or it still has further to fall. As I browsed the internet today, I saw an item by CNN according to which “Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington.” There are dozens of articles about Russian diplomats who are supposed to be spies or spy-recruiters or hold secret meetings. This background is being used to plant rumours about the allegedly secret meetings between Russian embassy staff and Americans in Washington. I’ll tell you a military secret: the job of a diplomat includes holding meetings in the receiving state. This is a written truth. If diplomats don’t maintain contacts and don’t attend negotiations, they are not diplomats. If they are diplomats, and Ambassador Kislyak and other embassy staff hold Russian diplomatic passports, it is their duty to meet with officials and members of the political establishment of the receiving state.
What US and other media write is an attempt at total disinformation of their own and the global public, but the main target is the American public. First we called this an information campaign. And then we changed the tone and described it as hysterics. But it is even worse than that, it’s George Orwell’s “1984.” We see now what he meant when he wrote about Big Brother. The Big Brother in the United States today is the US media, which have moved far beyond the limits of professional ethics and competence and feel free to denounce and condemn, or simply to fabricate news. This is exactly what is happening now. This is terrible, because the heat of internal political competition has reached the media, including the US media, which have joined the hostilities and are destroying the prestige and trust in media publications not only of their own public but also the international community as a whole. It is a frightening trend. The attempts to raise the public’s temperature by writing about the Russian diplomats’ allegedly secret contacts are part of a blatant disinformation campaign. Everyone knows how diplomats work and that meetings and contacts are part of their job. Will you write about the number of contacts and the contacting parties of the US Embassy staff in Moscow? Not interested? Just ask them about this. Or maybe you want to know the number of people employed at the US Embassy’s press service in Moscow? No? Why not? It is very interesting information that can shed light on great many questions.
There is a big divide between a politically motivated involvement in the election process and the current goings-on, which are designed to undermine the global public’s trust in and for the media. In our opinion, this is the only credible explanation.
The current trend is to write about the demise of Russian diplomats in a disgraceful and inhumane manner. All of us wanted to believe that Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin and Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov would live forever. But they are mere humans, and two of them died and one was killed. Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was treacherously killed in a terrorist attack, yet many US media outlets, though not all of them, did not describe his murder as a terrorist attack and, what is even worse, justified his murderer. As for Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin, I did not expect the US media to stoop to mud-throwing and provocations. Even my colleagues at the Russian Foreign Ministry sometimes ask me if this abracadabra and the conspiracy theories planted in the global information space are true.
I want to stress that the question is much broader and much more frightening. Journalists used to write their articles to win prestige for themselves and their media outlets, because their work is focused on winning public trust. What is happening now is a global disaster, because people are losing trust in the media. What will happen next? I believe they do not fully understand that they are opening Pandora’s box, considering that terrorist organisations also have access to this information technology, and that hundreds of thousands of people, as they lost trust in the media, will turn their attention to the internet, where really fake news and unreliable information are waiting for them. This is a terrible process.

By the way, this is also true about Montenegro and the recent information about it, with endless allegations about Russian diplomats who worked or did not work somewhere, and names that match or don’t match. To be honest, I want to say that we will deal with this only after we receive official documents from the Montenegrin authorities. And everything else is fake news and information planted for specific purposes. Taken together, this constitutes a trend. You may remember the information campaigns about the Sochi Olympics, Aleppo and doping in Russia. By the way, the latter allegation has been overturned. The latest information campaign is targeting Russian diplomats. The outcome will be deplorable: the global public will lose any trust in the media. Unfortunately, it will be our new reality.