Lavrov: Show me at least one fact Moscow meddled in 2016 election
MOSCOW / BRUSSELS — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday he wanted to be shown at least one fact proving Moscow’s meddling in the US presidential election last year.
“I don’t know anything about this fact. It’s amazing that serious people are making a mountain out of a molehill,” Lavrov said during a visit to Belgium. His comments were broadcast live by Russian state Rossiya 24 TV channel.
Moscow toughened its rhetoric in the row on Tuesday, saying it was considering ways to retaliate for the seizure of some of its diplomatic premises in the United States and expulsions of diplomats.
“The situation is outrageous,” Lavrov said.
“I believe that for such a great country like the US, this advocate of international law, it’s just shameful to leave the situation in midair,” he said in comments posted on his ministry’s website.
“We are now thinking of specific steps.”
At a news conference later in Brussels with the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini, Lavrov spoke of “retaliatory measures” but declined to answer when asked if that meant that Russia would expel US diplomats or seize diplomatic property.
He called on Washington to heed Moscow’s demands for a return of diplomatic assets.
“If this does not happen, if we see that this step is not seen as essential in Washington, then of course we will take retaliatory measures.
“This is the law of diplomacy, the law of international affairs, that reciprocity is the basis of all relations.”
Citing a Russian diplomat- ic source, the Izvestia daily said Russia was considering expelling around 30 US diplomats and taking over two US diplomatic compounds in Moscow and St Petersburg.
In December, the US seized two Russian diplomatic compounds and then-president Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking to interfere in the US presidential election campaign.
Moscow denied the allegations and said then it would wait to see if relations improved under incoming President Donald Trump.
Izvestia on Tuesday said the Moscow was frustrated that President Vladimir Putin’s first meeting with Trump last week had failed to resolve the diplomatic row.
Their discussions far exceeded the original time limit, ranging from cyber security to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Trump described the talks soon afterward as “very, very good”.
A senior US administration official said on Tuesday he had been told the issue of the compounds did not come up during the Trump-Putin meeting. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lavrov’s remarks.
(The Obama administration had aimed) to poison to a maximum US-Russian ties.”
Lavrov said on Tuesday Russia well understood the impact of the continued “anti-Russian bias of the US Congress” now that the Trump administration had long been in place.
“We realize that the decision to expel our diplomats, to impound our diplomatic property was adopted by the administration of former US president Obama,” he said.
The outgoing administration had aimed “to poison to a maximum US-Russian ties” and create a “trap” for Trump, he added.
Izvestia said Moscow still hoped the diplomatic row could be solved during a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.
It did not say when such a meeting might happen. A previous such meeting between Ryabkov and Shannon, planned for June 23, was abruptly canceled by Moscow in response to the expansion of US sanctions on Russia.
Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister