UK Slams Russia for ‘Classic Propaganda’ as Truss Refuses to Recognise Russian Regions in Geo Gaffe
13:42 GMT 11.02.2022 (Updated: 15:22 GMT 11.02.2022)
The UK foreign secretary was already the butt of jokes online last week after saying Britain would support “our Baltic allies across the Black Sea” – two different maritime regions separated by over 1,200 km of landmass. In her talks with Russian officials in Moscow on Thursday, the UK’s top diplomat made another serious geography-related error.
A British source has dismissed the implication that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss didn’t know what the heck she was talking about when she vowed not to recognise Russia’s sovereignty over the regions of Voronezh and Rostov during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
“It’s total rubbish and classic Russian propaganda,” the source told Reuters on Friday, saying the top British diplomat “misheard” Lavrov.
On Thursday, diplomatic sources told Russia’s Kommersant
newspaper that during the course of tense negotiations in Moscow, Truss demanded that Russian troops withdraw from regions bordering Ukraine, with Lavrov reportedly interjecting to ask whether she considered Voronezh and Rostov – the regions where Russian troops are drilling, as sovereign Russian territory.
Truss reportedly responded by vowing that the UK would “never recognize Russia’s sovereignty over these regions.” At that point, Britain’s ambassador Deborah Bronnert was said to have interjected to inform the foreign secretary that Rostov and Voronezh are indeed part of Russia.
The UK’s embassy in Moscow appeared to confirm the veracity of the conversation as cited by Kommersant, tweeting
on Thursday evening that Truss had made a mistake. “During the meeting it seemed to me that Minister Lavrov was talking about a part of Ukraine. I have made clear that these regions [Rostov and Voronezh] are part of sovereign Russia,” the Embassy wrote, quoting Truss.
Following their meeting, Lavrov said he was “rather disappointed” by its outcome, and suggested that speaking with his British counterpart was “a bit like a conversation between a dumb and a deaf person.” “It’s like they’re listening to us, but not hearing,” he said.
10 February 2022, 17:06 GMT
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters on Friday that the gaffe showed “the reality in which we have to defend our position.”
“Let’s call a gaffe a gaffe, and hope to the end that we are talking about a gaffe. But the fact that the leading actors in world diplomacy are having problems reading the very short and clear text of the Minsk Agreements’ package of measures is obvious,” Peskov said, referring to measures aimed at putting an end to the civil war in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western backers have resisted implementing.
10 February 2022, 10:31 GMT
Truss’s geography gaffe at the meeting with Lavrov was the second in a week. Last Sunday, she confused the Baltic and Black Seas, vowing in an interview to support “our Baltic allies across the Black Sea,” prompting Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova to write on Telegram that “if anyone needs saving from anything, it’s the world, from the stupidity and ignorance of British politicians.”
Like its predecessor, the Rostov/Voronezh blunder sparked a series of memes on social media, with Russians poking fun at Truss, while Britons expressed “deep embarrassment” and “shame” over the “hobby politicians” who apparently seem to be in charge of the UK’s foreign policy establishment.
“Madam Truss, do you recognize Russia’s sovereignty over the Moscow region as part of Russia?” one joker wrote
. “Yes I’ve just heard on the news: Voronezh is opening its own embassy in the UK,” another quipped
. “Breaking News: Rostov and Voronezh have invaded Russia,” a third jested