MOSCOW: The new US ambassador to Moscow came under an extraordinary attack on Tuesday from Russia's parliament for meeting the leaders of protests against strongman Vladimir Putin on his arrival last week. The fury surrounding president Barack Obama's former top Russia adviser Michael McFaul marks an inauspicious beginning for a man who helped "reset" Russia-US relations following Putin's 2008 departure from the Kremlin.
Obama's strategy then focused on promoting the more liberal leanings of president Dmitry Medvedev - a policy set for a rewrite with ex-KGB man Putin's expected return for a third term in March 4 polls. The 48-year-old career academic met with anti-Putin protest leaders a day after attending a protocol session at the Russian foreign ministry on January 16.
McFaul - seemingly unaware of the controversy this was about to generate - wrote on his blog at the time that this was part of Washington's "dual track engagement" with Moscow. "Just as president Obama did when he visited Moscow in July 2009, all senior US officials visiting Russia make a point of meeting with both government officials and civil society leaders," McFaul said.
But a commentator on Russia's main Channel One television immediately suggested that McFaul - who once penned a book called "Russia's Unfinished Revolution" - was now on a mission to "finish the revolution". Similar comments aired over the weekend on a second channel as the furore showed no signs of going away. A leading member of Putin's United Russia party on Tuesday relaunched the attacks on both McFaul and the Russians whom he invited to his Spaso House residence on January 17.
"US representatives are acting in an incredibly cynical manner," Andrei Isayev told a rowdy session of parliament. "This concerns both the embassy meeting, and the very fact that McFaul, who specializes in 'orange revolutions' , has been appointed US ambassador to Russia," he said.