Putin rails at ‘boorish’ US over closure of diplomatic mission

Russian president heaps scorn on Trump administration as diplomatic row simmers

Russian president Vladimir Putin at a news conference at the Brics summit in Xiamen, China, on Tuesday. “It’s difficult to engage in dialogue with people who confuse Austria with Australia,” he said. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

Russian president Vladimir Putin at a news conference at the Brics summit in Xiamen, China, on Tuesday. “It’s difficult to engage in dialogue with people who confuse Austria with Australia,” he said. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

 

Vladimir Putin heaped scorn on US president Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday, describing Washington’s latest attack against the Russian diplomatic mission in the US as “boorish” and “unprecedented”.

The US gave Russia two days to vacate its trade and consular facilities in San Francisco, Washington DC and New York last Thursday amid an escalating diplomatic feud between the two sides.

Russia’s foreign ministry slammed the US move as a “blatantly hostile act” and demanded a reversal of the order. But the US refused to back down, saying the eviction of the Russian diplomats was a response to enforced staff cuts to the US mission in Russia ordered by Mr Putin in July.

Commenting on the latest twist in the row for the first time on Tuesday, Mr Putin poured scorn on the US for the “boorish manner” in which the Russian diplomatic properties had been seized and questioned the competency of Washington policy makers.

“This does not reflect well on our American partners,” the Russian president told a press conference at the end of the Brics summit in Xiamen, China. “But it’s difficult to engage in dialogue with people who confuse Austria with Australia. Nothing can be done about it. Probably such is the level of political culture in certain parts of the US establishment.”

Russia reserved the right further to cut the US mission on its territory, Mr Putin said, but was not planning any immediate tit-for-tat action.

‘Clear violation’

However, he took a tough line on the US “unprecedented” confiscation of Russian diplomatic buildings, pledging to seek legal redress in court. “This is a clear violation of Russia’s property rights. For a start I will order the foreign ministry to go to court,” he said. “Let’s see how efficient the much praised US judiciary is.”

The escalating diplomatic spat that began last December when outgoing US president Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats reflects a downward spiral in relations between the two countries as Washington fumes over the Kremlin’s alleged interference in the election to help Mr Trump win the White House.

Mr Putin’s insulting remarks about US political establishment on Tuesday suggest that the Kremlin has given up hope that Mr Trump, who advocated friendlier ties with Moscow while campaigning for the US presidency last year, is either willing or able to deliver a thaw.

Yet asked at the press conference on Tuesday if he was “disappointed” by the downturn in the US relationship with Russia under Mr Trump, Mr Putin hinted that all was not lost while dismissing the reporter’s question as “naive”.

“He [Trump] is not my bride and I’m not his groom. We are engaged in state affairs,” he said. “I very much hope that we will succeed in finding some kind of compromise to resolve bilateral problems.”