Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

June 28, 2016

The Washington Post publishes an article against Russia

People working in journalism say that it is better to refrain from quoting negative articles so as to avoid further publicity. This is not what I believe. The world should know its heroes. So let me highlight this issue in all the details. I’m talking about an article by the Washington Post. Judging by the number of comments and responses, I think that almost everyone read it yesterday. We received letters from many countries expressing indignation and puzzlement. For this reason, we could not fail to respond to the article on the presumed harassment by Russia of US diplomats working in the country. The article purports that US diplomats are being harassed not only in Moscow, but also in other countries.

Let me remind you how this started. During the previous press briefing we noted that Russian diplomatic missions to the US were subject to increased pressure. I provided a number of examples, saying that we do not need any deterioration in bilateral relations. Nevertheless US authorities constantly come up with new restrictions for Russian diplomats. They have to deal regularly with provocations by the FBI and the CIA who are not concerned about using unacceptable measures, including psychological pressure in the presence of family members. There have been cases where such incidents have involved the staff members of Russian foreign missions when accompanied by their pregnant wives. Unfortunately, there seems to be no limits anymore.

We raised this issue in order to send a signal that actions of this kind should not take place, so that those on the other side of the Atlantic can consider ways to improve the situation in order to create an atmosphere that will improve, not worsen, relations. Instead of responding to this signal constructively and viewing it as an attempt to highlight an issue and renounce aggressive behaviour, the US decided to turn everything upside down, as it usually does. The Washington Post published an article saying US diplomats are being harassed in some way or other not only in Russia, but in other countries as well. It is obvious that this was a set-up: the article is shallow, does not contain the whole picture, was written in haste and based on indirect evidence. All in all, this is a spectacular example of propaganda.

This is easy to prove. In fact, former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is one of the main “experts” quoted in the article. We remember all too well what he was doing while in Russia. Generally speaking, he proved to be totally incompetent. He is often quoted by US media. For no clear reason, he has unfortunately become an expert on Russia-US relations. Let’s call things by their names. The mission of former US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was a complete failure. Now this man, who, it can be argued, contributed to worsening bilateral relations, provides comments, including for the article in question.

Let me remind you how it all started. The US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul called Russia a “wild country.” I think that he created the environment in which he worked in Russia all by himself. Having worked in Russia for several years without any success, he now talks about how hard it was back then. Other speakers quoted in the article voiced similar opinions. I would like to reiterate that the article is shallow, based on indirect evidence and was clearly written at somebody’s order. How do we know that it was a set-up? Because the US Department of State instantly picked it up at its briefing and seemed to take it seriously. There is no doubt that this does nothing to improve bilateral relations and only makes them worse. Instead of considering an issue, they only further complicate things.

Let me remind you that several years ago it was Washington who said that sanctions imposed on Russia were aimed at generating social instability and promoting a regime change in Russia. I would like to call on the journalists who have questions and are ambitious enough to deal with subjects of this scale to look a little further at the history of this issue in its entirety. Of course, this policy, proclaimed by the White House, failed. It did not succeed, although attempts are still being made to keep the conversation going on ways to isolate Russia. We do understand that these attempts are made by a specific group of people who lobby specific interests, not ordinary Americans. Let me remind you that against this backdrop US Secretary of State John Kerry is taking what we see as real steps to overcome the deadlock in our relations that resulted from the actions of amateurish politicians and others lobbying for the deterioration of Russia-US relations. US Secretary of State John Kerry has initiated visits to Russia three times in less than a year.

As we have noted, the US Congress is already working on a special law with a wording that we thought to be outdated and reminiscent of the witch hunt policies of the past. This law introduces steep restrictions on the work of Russian diplomats in the US. It seems as if they are laying the groundwork for encroaching on the normal functioning of Russian diplomatic missions. It was not Russia who came up with this law. This is another question for the author of the Washington Post article: You did not see it coming and did not want to see it; did somebody ask you not to mention it? Why have you written this tabloid rubbish?

Let me reiterate once again what we have been saying all along. When it comes to diplomats there is reciprocity. I think that our colleagues have to understand what it is that they really want: end the deadlock in our relations or at least avoid it by not making relations worse, or publish articles like this one, initiate them and then promote them at media events. The main conclusion that should be drawn in this respect is that by contributing to deteriorating relations with Russia (unfortunately the author of the article failed to grasp this), Washington creates complications for the work of its own diplomats abroad. We are not the ones behaving in this way, and certainly not the way the article describes it. I urge all of you to read this incredible article. I don’t even want to quote from it; it’s degrading and ridiculous. Again: by pursuing a path of deteriorating relations with Russia using these and other methods, Washington makes life harder for its own diplomats abroad. I hope that we can work with the US and our colleagues constructively. Russia is open to it.