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17 Feb, 2018 11:53

Until there are facts on election meddling, it’s all just blather – Lavrov on Mueller indictment

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has again dismissed claims of Russian meddling in the US election, saying that until facts are presented by Washington, they are nothing but “blather.”

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday, he said that “Until we see facts, everything else will be just blather.”  When asked to comment on the indictment of Russian nationals and companies in the US over alleged meddling in the 2016 US election, the foreign minister answered:You know, I have no reaction at all because one can publish anything he wants. We see how accusations, statements, statements are multiplying.”

On Friday, a US federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three entities accused of interfering in the 2016 election and political processes. According to the indictment, those people were “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump... and disparaging Hillary Clinton” as they staged political rallies and bought political advertising, while posing as grassroots entities.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova ridiculed the indictment, noting that 13 people could hardly have caused any real interference.

“13 against billions budgets of special agencies? Against intelligence and counterespionage, against the newest technologies? Absurd? – Yes,” she wrote on Facebook.

Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin, who was among those indicted, also weighed in. Describing Americans as “emotional people,” he said that there was no reason to be “upset.”

“If they want to see the devil, let them,” Prigozhin told RIA Novosti.

Even US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had to admit that there were “no allegations” that this “information warfare” yielded any results and affected the outcome of the presidential election.

The underwhelming indictment was also slammed in the US. Virginia State Senator Richard Black accused FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller of deliberately dragging out the Russian meddling probe for his own gain. “To a certain extent, I think, Robert Mueller is struggling to keep alive his position of a special counsel. The special counsel has already earned seven million dollars. When you become a special counsel, you have an open checkbook for the US Treasury and you are guaranteed to become a mega-millionaire if you simply can drag out the proceedings,” Black told RT.

The indictment described the methods used by the defendants to meddle in the election, with some of them looking rather weird and naive. It said that, among other things, the perpetrators asked a US citizen to build a cage for someone to stand in dressed as Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform. The meddlers were also said to have used social media hashtags like #Trump2016 and #Hillary4Prison, and posted “derogatory information” about Clinton and other candidates online. The indictment did not provide the actual content of the comments.

Social media users also found the results of the Mueller probe quite odd, pointing out that there was no way that 13 people could have had any effect on the election. Some argue that the FBI should have put more effort into preventing mass shootings.

Andrey Krutskikh, the special presidential representative for international cooperation in information security, has also criticized the indictment, calling it a “childish” move. “As for those lists, it’s a new trend in bad American diplomacy: instead of discussing the pressing issues of stabilization and security in the information space, they come up with some sort of accusations against individuals, organizations. This is typical of the US. It’s surprising that they still don’t understand that this method is completely ineffective,” Krutskikh told RIA-Novosti.

Despite the lack of significant proof, the accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election remain a hot topic in Washington, contributing largely to the worst deterioration in Russian-American relations since the Cold War. The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia, targeting private individuals, companies, and whole sectors of the economy.