A senior US diplomat on Friday criticized a journalist at Russia’s TASS News Agency for spreading “propaganda” after the latter asked a question about people “lining up for Russian passports” in regions in Ukraine.
A reporter from Russia’s state-owned news agency asked the US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to explain the “thousands of people lining up for the Russian passports in Kherson and Melitopol if their conditions are so bad.”
The question was in an apparent reference to Vladimir Putin’s decree allowing Kherson residents to apply for Russian citizenship, “which will no doubt confer extra privileges on those who choose to accept that,” Ambassador Michael Carpenter said during a phone briefing.
Responding to the TASS reporter’s question, Carpenter said it sounded “a little bit like propaganda.”
“I haven’t received any such reports of people lining up, and conditions are horrible. When you talk about a place like Mariupol, where the stench of bodies that are being buried by the rubble is so palpable, there is a fear that cholera could spread throughout the city. Yeah, conditions are not just bad; conditions are absolutely barbaric in some of these places,” he said. ”I mean, you look at the images from Bucha of civilians with their hands tied behind their backs, sometimes blindfolded, shot point-blank in the head. I would venture to say that, yes, indeed, conditions are horrific. They are bad.”
The same reporter also asked the US ambassador to comment on the recent decision by Russian-backed officials in Ukraine to execute two British fighters for fighting with Ukrainian forces. Carpenter called the court order part of the “sham trials.”
A court in Russian-occupied east Ukraine charged two British men with “terrorism” on Thursday and sentenced them to death along with a Moroccan citizen.
Carpenter said the three men were “lawful combatants” in the Ukrainian army. “And we call on Russia and its proxies to respect international humanitarian law, including the rights and protections afforded to prisoners of war,” he said.
During the phone briefing on Friday, Carpenter blasted the Kremlin for “trying to absorb Ukraine into Russia.”
He also echoed previous comments by US officials that Russia was waiting for the right time to try to annex the Kherson region to Russia. The diplomat said a sham referendum was one possibility while raising the possibility of having Russian-backed proxies petition Moscow for annexation.
“So, to be perfectly clear, the population of Kherson wants absolutely nothing to do with the brutal occupation regime that Russia is trying to impose. So for now, Russia is still in the process of trying to create the conditions on the ground for a future move towards annexation,” Carpenter said.
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