Not content to just trade barbs with the U.S. over its ongoing support for the Syrian regime, Russia has now started a war of words with the U.K. On Wednesday, Russia’s deputy United Nations ambassador Vladimir Safronkov blasted the British permanent representative to the U.N. Matthew Rycroft, suggesting he was “scared” of Russia’s close relationship with the U.S. — and warning him: “Don’t you dare insult Russia again.”
Safronkov was speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting where he vetoed a draft resolution proposed by the U.K., France, and the U.S. The resolution sought to force Syrian President Bashar Assad to cooperate fully with an investigation into the regime’s recent alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. Safronkov said Russia was vetoing the resolution because it “appointed the guilty party prior to the investigation, prior to an independent and objective investigation. Now this is an approach incompatible with the legal norms.”
Turning his attention to the U.K. diplomat, Safronkov said: “Mr. Rycroft, today you departed from the agenda to insult Syria, Iran, Turkey, and other states. Rules should be observed, it is unacceptable when representatives of the U.N. Security Council members show such irresponsibility and use dirty language. Don’t you dare insult Russia ever again.”
Earlier during the meeting, Rycroft had labeled the Assad regime as “murderous, barbaric, criminal,” stating that Russia’s continued support for the Syrian government meant they would bring “shame and humiliation” on the country, before adding that Moscow would be “on the wrong side of history.”
Safronkov accused Rycroft and the U.K. government of being “scared” of the apparently close relationship between Moscow and Washington. “Your dream has slipped away, because we’re going to work with the United States. You’re afraid of this. You’re doing everything you can to sabotage this teamwork.” At this point Rycroft appeared to look somewhere else in the chamber, leading Safronkov to shout: “Look at me. Don’t turn your eyes away. Why are you looking away?”
The assertion that the Kremlin is working more closely with the White House seemed to be somewhat undermined earlier on Wednesday when Trump and Putin traded increasingly bitter words. Trump called Assad “an animal,” and claimed Russia’s support was the only reason there was a problem in Syria. In a television interview which ran around the same time, Putin said relations between Moscow and Washington had deteriorated under Trump’s presidency.
During his tirade, Safronkov used the familiar ‘you’ form in the Russian language — typically reserved for talking to friends and children but almost never in public addresses. On Russia’s official UN website however, the transcript of what Safronkov said was softened to appear less antagonistic and more formal by replacing the familiar version of ‘you’ with the formal version.
The Moscow Times reported that Russia’s state-run news agencies heralded Safronkov’s outburst as “a triumph over British arrogance.”
Cover: Sipa USA via AP