The Russian government has shot down reports suggesting it could try and interfere in next month’s local elections as “absurd”.
In a statement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reacted to reports that Malta had turned down a Russian request to use its airspace to fly military aircraft to Venezuela.
Malta’s decision comes shortly after the island had last month approved a similar request, with Russian military planes and personnel eventually spotted in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.
The question about Malta begins at 1.39.50 in the above video.
Last month The New York Times reported how a visit to Venezuela by two Russian military planes had “set off alarms” that the pro-Venezuela Russian government was stepping up its support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
The international media reports have also quoted unnamed sources suggesting that the Russian embassy in Malta did not take kindly to the rejections, raising concerns of possible retaliation.
This, the reports said, could result in some for of interference, possibly in the form of a misinformation campaign, in the upcoming MEP and local councils election.
“These reports distort the interpretation of the Russian request and the response of the Maltese authorities to it. This also implies conjectures that Russia can respond by launching a campaign to discredit the country’s leadership during or after the May 2019 elections to the European Parliament. This news is absurd. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Malta voices such ridiculous and absolutely groundless accusations with regard to Russia. This is called fake news in modern language,” the spokeswoman said.
Maltese media criticised
She added that the Russian government believed the media reports tarnished the publications’ reputation.
“This is a blow to their professionalism, independence, objectivity and honesty during the fulfillment of their official duty,” she said.
The statement also acknowledged that Malta had exercised its sovereign right but went on to say: “The solution of Malta government is not friendly… of course Russia will take this into account in its bilateral relations with Valletta.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department gave the Maltese government the thumbs up for refusing the Russian government's request.
We applaud the government of #Malta for refusing to allow Russian planes to use its airspace to supply the brutal former regime in #Venezuela. We call on all countries to follow Malta’s example to stop the Kremlin’s support for the dictator Maduro. #EstamosUnidosVE @MFAMalta— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) April 19, 2019
“We applaud the government of Malta for refusing to allow Russian planes to use its airspace to supply the brutal former regime in Venezuela. We call on all countries to follow Malta’s example to stop the Kremlin’s support for the dictator Maduro,” tweeted State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortangus.
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