U.S. expresses concern about treatment of envoy to Russia

March 30, 2012

The Obama administration has told the Russian government that it is concerned about the harassment of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, who suggested this week that his phone and e-mail account may have been hacked, allowing journalists from state-controlled television to track him.

McFaul, who took up his post in January, noted on his Twitter account that a crew from NTV seems to be aware of his every move, including meetings that have not been publicly announced.

“I respect press right to go anywhere & ask any question,” McFaul tweeted Thursday. “But do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?”

Russian news agencies said NTV dismissed McFaul’s complaint, and officials at the station, which is owned by Gazprom, the state-controlled monopoly, said they have a network of informants who provide them with information.

“There’s been a number of incidents since his arrival there that have caused us to have some concerns about his security and safety,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday. “So as we would in following normal protocol, we’ve raised that with the government of Russia.”


Ambassador Michael McFaul has suggested that Russian journalists from state-controlled television may have hacked his phone and e-mail account. (VLADIMIR PIROGOV/REUTERS)

Some Russian commentators have charged that McFaul, who has met with democracy activists involved in the recent street demonstrations in Moscow, is an agent of revolution.

NTV showed footage of McFaul complaining to one of its reporters about his treatment.

“Your ambassador in our country goes around all the time without this sort of thing, not interfering in his work,” McFaul said. “You’re with me everywhere, at home — it’s interesting. Aren’t you ashamed to be doing this? It’s an insult to your country when you do this.”

McFaul, who served on the National Security Council before becoming ambassador and was an advocate of the “reset” in relations with the Kremlin, added that Russia seems like a “wild country.” He later attributed that remark to his “bad Russian” and said that he intended to say that the NTV journalists were acting wildly, not that Russia is wild.

McFaul is not the first ambassador to clash with allies of the Kremlin. Pro-Kremlin youth groups have in the past followed the British and Estonian ambassadors as they moved around Moscow.

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