US envoy dismisses Moscow’s reaction
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) gives the oath of office to ambassador-designate to Russia Mike McFaul on Jan 10 at the State Department in Washington. AFP photoThe new U.S. ambassador to Moscow parried attacks on him in an interview yesterday, saying a meeting with opposition members that provoked a furious reaction in Russia was simply part of his job.
Russian lawmakers attacked ambassador Michael McFaul, President Barack Obama’s former top Russia advisor and author of the “reset” policy, for meeting opposition leaders shortly after his arrival last week. But McFaul told Kommersant broadsheet in an interview translated into Russian that he was accompanying U.S. deputy secretary of state William Burns.
“That is my obligation as ambassador,” he said, adding that he said little at the meeting. Strongman Vladimir Putin is seeking to win back his old Kremin job in March presidential elections despite an outburst of protest against his 12-year rule. Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets last month, and the opposition hopes to muster another big rally on Feb. 4. Prime Minister Putin has accused protest leaders of being in the pay of the U.S. State Department. McFaul dismissed Russian accusations that his appointment was an attempt to foment a Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution in Russia.
Putin’s challenger disqualified
He also rejected popular rumors that protest leader Alexei Navalny is funded by Washington, saying he received no money or support from the U.S. and that such claims were insulting to Russia.
Meanwhile, Russia’s elections commission said Jan. 24 that a prominent opposition leader will be disqualified from running for president in March.
Russian news agencies quoted elections commission secretary Nikolai Konkin as saying that the body would formally block Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal Yabloko party, from the ballot later this week, after finding that hundreds of thousands of the signatures submitted on his nominating petition were invalid.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.