Russia’s Top Diplomat Uses Trump Shock Talk to Hit U.S. Vote

  • CNN’s Amanpour asked Lavrov about Trump’s ‘Pussy Riot’ moment
  • Russian Foreign Ministry, embassy in U.S. post Lavrov comments

Russia’s top diplomat and his team waded into the frayed U.S. election by turning the language of Donald Trump’s now-notorious leaked videotape against his opponent.

Departing from diplomatic protocol, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dodged a question on the scandal that’s engulfed Trump’s presidential campaign, saying he saw “so many pussies” on both sides of the electoral race.

Relations between the two former Cold War rivals have deteriorated dramatically since the collapse of a Syrian cease-fire agreement, with the U.S. accusing Russia of war crimes in its military offensive in the Middle Eastern country and of cyber warfare aimed at influencing the U.S. election. Appointed by President Vladimir Putin in 2004, Lavrov, 66, is a fluent English speaker and career diplomat who served for many years as ambassador to the United Nations in New York.

“English is not my mother tongue,” Lavrov said in English in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour broadcast on Wednesday. “I don’t know if I would sound decent. There are so many pussies around the presidential campaign on both sides that I prefer not to comment on this.”

Lavrov laughed as Amanpour said: “Oh my goodness! I wasn’t expecting that.” Russia’s foreign minister was asked what he thought of Trump’s “Pussy Riot” moment, a reference to a feminist group whose leading members were imprisoned for performing a song critical of Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012.

‘Locker Room’

The furor surrounding a 2005 recording of Trump boasting about grabbing women by the “pussy” has roiled the race as prominent Republicans deserted him. At the second presidential debate of 2016, the party’s nominee dismissed his statements in the video as “locker room talk.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, re-posted the transcript of the exchange and a translation into Russian on her Facebook page. The Russian Embassy in Washington tweeted Lavrov’s “pussies” comment.

Zakharova told Bloomberg News that he was simply “returning Amanpour’s own words back to her” and said that this is “one of the dirtiest election campaigns in U.S. history.”

Valery Solovei, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the country’s top university for future diplomats, said the comments represented a dramatic departure.

“Lowering the language from the diplomatic to vulgar schoolyard level is a signal that Putin is ready to escalate political confrontation and burning his bridges,” Solovei said in a phone interview. “He doubts that anyone would talk to him. So Lavrov reflects this and may even get a reward for how he spoke.”

Lavrov denied that Russia is interfering in the U.S. election. Last week the Obama administration accused Russia of being behind the hacking of American political groups, including the Democratic National Committee, and of leaking the information to influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 vote.

“Now everybody in the United States is saying that it is Russia which is running the presidential debate,” he said. “We have not seen a single fact, a single proof.”

Asked about the White House’s announcement Tuesday that it will respond to the Russian hacking in a “proportional” manner, Lavrov said: “If they decided to do something, let them do it. But to say that Russia is interfering in the United States’ domestic matters is ridiculous.”

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