The Slatest

Now Russia Is Also Defending Trump at the U.N.

Russia’s Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin.

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin’s government continues not to try particularly hard to mask its preferred candidate in the U.S. presidential election.

The AP reported Friday (before news broke that the U.S. has officially accused the Kremlin of tampering in the election) that Russia lodged a formal complaint with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month about anti-Trump statements by a U.N. official. Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, made the complaints verbally in a meeting with Ban in response to several speeches by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. In the speeches, Hussein has denounced Trump and right-wing European politicians like Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and Viktor Orban as dangerous demagogues, even comparing their rhetoric to ISIS propaganda. An anonymous diplomat quoted by the AP said that Churkin specifically “condemned the fact that Zeid mentioned Trump” in the meeting with Ban.

This is all very strange. Zeid didn’t mention Russia or Vladimir Putin’s government in his remarks, so it’s not clear why Churkin would push back against them. Even if this were another example of Russia trying to influence the U.S. election on Trump’s behalf, I have a hard time seeing the point of it. It’s not like American voters are likely to be swayed by the righteous condemnation of a Jordanian diplomat. As the AP notes, Trump never responded himself to Zeid’s criticism and it’s not clear he even knows about it.

Zeid has also strongly criticized Russian airstrikes in Syria, suggesting that they may constitute war crimes, so it may be that Churkin was just looking for a way to attack him that doesn’t look totally self-interested. Or he’s trolling.