- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2012



Rarely does a diplomat speak so bluntly, but with that one word in a Twitter post, the U.S. ambassador to Russia set off a buzz in the blogosphere this week, as he slapped down a critic who accused him of trying to topple the government in the Kremlin.

Ambassador Michael McFaul already had stirred up the political establishment shortly after arriving in Moscow in January, when he met with opposition leaders who criticize the increasingly autocratic regime of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In his tweet Tuesday, Mr. McFaul slammed the television show “Russia Today” for posting an article by political analyst Igor Panarin on the TV station’s website.

Mr. McFaul reminded the show’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, that she had asked him to be candid about any “Russia Today” report he found inaccurate. The two had met at the White House when Mr. McFaul was a Russia specialist at the National Security Council before President Obama named him ambassador to Russia.

“When we met at White House, you asked me [to] tell you when RT ran something untrue,” Mr. McFaul wrote in his tweet to Ms. Simonyan, referring to “Russia Today.”

“On RT today, McFaul sent Navalny to Yale. Lie,” he added, referring to Mr. Panarin’s opinion piece posted Tuesday.

Mr. Panarin claimed that Mr. McFaul, while working with pro-democracy groups in 2006, had been grooming a young dissident named Aleksey Navalny and arranged for him to attend a special program at Yale University four years later.

Today, Mr. Navalny is a major pro-democracy advocate. Mr. Panarin called him Russia’s “most popular blogger and a charismatic public activist.”

Mr. McFaul, in a post this week on his Facebook page, continued to poke at “Russia Today.”

“Does RT have an obligation to correct factual errors in opinion pieces?” he wrote. “Or does the fact that Panarin is expressing an ‘opinion’ give the author a license to say anything, the facts be damned?”

Mr. McFaul got more than 60 comments on his Facebook page that were mostly positive.

Mr. Panarin, in his “Russia Today” article, accused Mr. McFaul of promoting anti-Putin rallies and devising “some secret plans” to benefit Mr. Navalny.

He said the “fight to prevent chaos and to preserve Russian statehood is yet to come.”

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