MOSCOW — Washington’s controversial ambassador to Moscow was forced to defend himself through Twitter Tuesday after the Russian foreign ministry furiously condemned a speech he made as shocking.
Ambassador Michael McFaul — a top former foreign policy aide of President Barack Obama who arrived in Russia in January — became the talk of state television this weekend for reportedly accusing the Kremlin of once trying to bribe Kyrgyzstan to close down a US base that has irritated Russia.
State television reported that McFaul had told a group of students at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in a May 25 speech that Russia offered the former Soviet republic a massive loan to shut the base, whose presence in Central Asia has irritated Moscow.
He also reportedly criticized RT, Russia’s state-run foreign-language television station, and accused Moscow of tying its backing of US foreign policy positions to less criticism of its human rights record.
The Russian foreign ministry Monday issued a formal statement expressing “utmost puzzlement” at what McFaul said. “This is not the first time that the words and deeds of Mr. McFaul, who holds such a responsible position, prompt shock,” the statement said.
The former Stanford University professor had by Tuesday morning tweeted more than half a dozen times about the incident and even posted bullet points from the speech. — AFP