New US ambassador sparks Russia's fury
MOSCOW - Agence France- Presse
Ambassador-Designate to Russia Michael McFaul. AFP PhotoA top Russian lawmaker called Tuesday for a parliamentary probe after the new US ambassador met the leaders of current protests against strongman Vladimir Putin.
President Barack Obama's chief Russia adviser Michael McFaul, who arrived as US ambassador on January 16, prompted fury in the state media by holding the private talks within his first 48 hours on the job.
McFaul -- author of the so-called "reset" in US-Russia relations and a veteran Kremlin watcher who once worked in Moscow as an analyst -- described his decision as a part of Washington's "dual track engagement" of Moscow.
"Just as President Obama did when he visited Moscow in July 2009, all senior US officials visiting Russia make a point of meeting with both government officials and civil society leaders," McFaul wrote on his blog last week.
But a commentator on Russia's main Channel One television immediately suggested that McFaul -- who once penned a book called "Russia's Unfinished Revolution" -- was now on a mission to "finish the revolution".
Similar comments aired over the weekend on a second channel as the furore showed no signs of going away.
A leading member of Putin's United Russia party on Tuesday picked up the attacks on both McFaul and the Russians whom he invited to his Spaso House residence on January 17.
"US representatives are acting in an incredibly cynical manner," Andrei Isayev told a rowdy session of parliament.
"This concerns both the embassy meeting, and the very fact that McFaul, who specialises in 'orange revolutions', has been appointed as US ambassador to Russia," he said in reference to pro-democracy protests that swept ex-Soviet nations in the past decade.
The ruling party's call was picked up by the populist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and several other State Duma deputies.
The Duma was expected to ask its ethic committee to conduct a formal inquiry.
Russia's nascent opposition movement has held the largest series of protests to hit Moscow in nearly two decades in response to a fraud-tainted December parliamentary election won by Putin's United Russia group.
A new rally scheduled for February 4 comes one month before a presidential election in which Putin is the overwhelming favourite to win back a post he held in 2000-2008 before becoming President Dmitry Medvedev's prime minister.