In the wake of another high-profile cyberattack against Democratic Party leaders, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov sat down for an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in which he did not deny the Kremlin may have been behind an earlier security breach at the Democratic National Committee. Instead, he said, the United States simply hasn’t proven it.
It “It’s flattering, of course, to get this kind of attention—for a regional power,” Lavrov said, throwing President Barack Obama’s characterization of Russia back in his face. “It has nothing to be explained by the facts. We have not seen a single fact, a single proof,” he said, before going off on a tangent about a cybercrime proposal.
Amanpour tried again. “Let’s get back to the facts. You deny this, you know, the international community and the United States—” The Russian official interjected: “No we did not deny this, they did not prove it.” Then Lavrov told Amanpour that it was not worth speculating about whether a state-sponsored Russian hack might prompt a response from the Obama administration, which said Tuesday it is considering a range of “proportional” responses after officially declaring that Russia was behind last summer’s D.N.C. hack. “If they decided to do something, let them do it,” Lavrov said dismissively.
While dissembling, Lavrov’s comments mark an escalation in rhetoric. When Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke with Bloomberg last month, he denied any Russian involvement at the state level, asserting that he “did not know anything about” a breach of the D.N.C. servers. “To do that you need to have a finger on the pulse and get specifics of the domestic political life of the U.S.,” he told the outlet. “I’m not sure that even our foreign-ministry experts are sensitive enough.” Similarly, on Tuesday night, Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., said, “We do not interfere into internal affairs in the United States, not by my statements, not by electronic or other means,” BuzzFeed News reports.
But Lavrov appeared more than happy to troll the Obama administration. Later in the interview, when Amanpour asked Lavrov to comment on the recently surfaced 2005 video of Donald Trump bragging about groping women, including grabbing them “by the p----” without consent, the veteran Russian diplomat replied, “There are so many p-----s around the presidential campaign on both sides that I prefer not to comment on this.”
Christiane Amanpour ✔ @camanpour
Lavrov on Trump tapes: “so many pussies around your pres. campaign on both sides that I prefer not to comment.”
7:41 AM - 12 Oct 2016
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The official Twitter account for Russia’s U.S. embassy quickly shared the quote online, tagging the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest, and a handful of reporters. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also tweeted an image of Lavrov’s response to the “cheeky question,” and tagged Trump. Who says geopolitics isn’t without humor?