Russia Apologizes After ‘Vulgar’ Jibe Infuriates Serbian Leader

Russia’s outspoken Foreign Ministry spokeswoman apologized after she drew a rare public rebuke from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for mocking him in a social media post when he signed a U.S.-brokered deal with Kosovo.

“I apologize but my post was misinterpreted,” Maria Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page. She had intended to attack U.S. claims of “exceptionalism” and not insult the Serbian leader, she said.

Zakharova earlier posted a photo of Vucic at the White House facing President Donald Trump on Friday along with a second photo of a famous scene from the film “Basic Instinct” in which Sharon Stone is sitting cross-legged during questioning by police.

“If you are invited to the White House and the chair is placed as if you are being interrogated, sit down like on photo number two. No matter who you are,” the Russian diplomat said. “Just believe me.”

The post drew an unusual - and furious - response from Vucic himself. “The primitivism and the vulgarity she showed speak of her, and by God, of those who put her there,” Vucic told reporters in Brussels.

Zakharova, who was recently promoted to the rank of ambassador, has a reputation for blunt commentary and maintains an active social media presence as Russia’s foreign-policy spokeswoman. Her boss, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, spoke to Vucic later Sunday by phone.

The Serbian leader informed Lavrov of the results of the Washington talks and the two sides agreed to develop their strategic partnership, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry website statement, which made no mention of the incident.

Officials and diplomats must choose their language carefully on social media to avoid misunderstandings, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call Monday, in response to a question on the issue. Zakharova “has apologized, and we assume nobody can be in any doubt about the commitment and deep respect to Serbia in general and the leadership of Serbia in particular,” Peskov said.

Even as Serbia seeks European Union membership, it has maintained close ties with Russia, a fellow Orthodox nation, including through defense and energy cooperation.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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