- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Russian prankster posted a fake Twitter message Sunday, implying that U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul in Moscow was claiming voter fraud in Russia’s presidential election even before the polls closed.

Mr. McFaul, who has been under relentless attack from supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, quickly responded with a message denouncing the fraudulent tweet and insisting that he will say nothing about the election.

The trickster created a Twitter account that looked similar to the ambassador’s but substituted the lowercase “l” at the end of Mr. McFaul’s name with a capital “I,” which looks identical in many type fonts.

The fake message warned of a “large amount” of vote fraud “casting doubt on the [election’s] legitimacy.”

Mr. McFaul immediately sent out a tweet explaining that he had said nothing about the election and did not intend to.

“Will let experts judge elections,” he said.

The ambassador added in a separate tweet: “Someone has put out a false account under my name. Please help your followers understand.”

He also noted that the fake message was in Russian, while he usually communicates in English.

“You all obviously know I don’t write that well in Russian!” he said.

The U.S. Embassy added that the United States will not comment on the elections “until they are finished.”

Mr. McFaul has irritated Mr. Putin’s most rabid supporters since he arrived in Moscow last month and met with members of the political opposition.

He has tangled with the pro-Putin television program, “Russia Today,” and even accused the show’s editor, Margarita Simonyan, of posting a “lie” in a Twitter message that accused him of interfering with Russia’s domestic politics.

Ms. Simonyan was one of the first to be duped by the fake McFaul on Sunday and later retracted a message after learning the tweet was a prank.

“They don’t even wait for the results, but act straight away,” she said of the initial, fake post, according to reporters in Moscow.

“I’m in shock,” she wrote later after learning of the fake tweet.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who meets with President Obama and addresses the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Tuesday

• Takuya Hattori, president of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum and former president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. He discusses the March 2011 Japan nuclear disaster in a forum at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

• Defense Minister Andres Allamand of Chile, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

• Sergei Guriev, a leading Russian economist and a member of Russia’s Council on Science, Education and Technology. He discusses the Russian presidential election with members of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

• Thanos Veremis, a history professor at Greece’s University of Athens, discusses Greek politics in a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. On Thursday, he joins Photini Tomai, a historian with the Greek Foreign Ministry, at the Wilson Center to discuss the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

Wednesday

• Oleg Kozlovsky, a Russian blogger and co-founder of the Moscow-based Vision of Tomorrow Foundation, discusses the Russian presidential election in a briefing at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Thursday

• Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales, who is on a mission to promote Welsh businesses.

Friday

• Mariano Fernandez, special representative and secretary-general of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.