Russia summons French ambassador over minister’s ‘unacceptable’ comments

MOSCOW   -   Russia on Friday summoned the French ambassador to Moscow following “unacceptable” com­ments by French Foreign Minis­ter Stephane Sejourne, the Rus­sian foreign ministry said.

Sejourne on Monday said that France had no interest in talking to the Kremlin, a few days after a telephone conversation between Russian and French army minis­ters ended in divergent accounts.

French ambassador Pierre Levy “was informed about the unacceptable character of such statements, which have nothing to do with reality,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a state­ment, denouncing a “deliberate act” that “aimed to undermine the possibility of any dialogue between the two countries”.

It is the latest in series of spats between the two countries, whose relations have deterio­rated since the start of the year, against the backdrop of the con­flict in Ukraine. After a conversa­tion between the two countries’ defence ministers on April 3, Russia said it “hoped” that the French secret services were not involved in the Moscow concert hall attack claimed by Islamic State group, which killed 144 people on March 22.

France had initiated the meet­ing in a bid to pass on “useful information” to Russia about the attack. French president Em­manuel Macron reacted angrily to the Russian suggestion, de­nouncing “baroque and threat­ening comments”.

In January, Russia claimed to have killed 60 French “merce­naries” in Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine, while Paris denounced “a coordinated manoeuvre” of disinformation emanating from Moscow. Russia also announced that it had summoned Slovenian ambassador Darja Bavdaz Kuret on Friday to notify her of the ex­pulsion of a Slovenian diplomat “in return” for a similar deci­sion taken by Ljubljana in March against a Russian representative. 

On Thursday, the Russian For­eign Ministry announced that it had done the same with Austrian ambassador Werner Almhofer following the expulsion of two Russian diplomats by Vienna. Moscow expelled an Austrian diplomat in response.

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