Lavrov calls uproar over US officials' Russia ties 'witch-hunt'

Indo Asian News Service

Moscow, March 3 (IANS) Russia's Foreign Minister pushed back on Friday at assertions that his country's US Ambassador is a spy, and echoed US President Donald Trump's contention that the controversy over contacts between Kremlin officials and Trump's campaign is "a witch hunt".

Sergey Lavrov was speaking at a press conference alongside Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, who was on a visit to Moscow.

"I cannot refer to a quote spread in the media today. All this looks very much like a witch-hunt. Or the days of McCarthyism, which we thought had long passed in the US," said Lavrov.

Lavrov was referring to the recent accusations that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had lied under oath when he said he "did not have communications with the Russians" during the Trump election campaign, Efe news reported.

US Justice Department has since confirmed that Sessions had, indeed, held a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak two months before the US presidential election.

Democrats have called for the Republican official to stand down, but President Trump defended him and also accused the Democrats of a witch-hunt.

"Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional," said Trump on Twitter.

Lavrov said ambassadors were appointed to maintain bilateral relations and they did this by holding meetings and conversations with members of the executive.

The accusations lodged against Sessions came a month on from similar claims against the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who later stepped down.

Kislyak is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia's top spies and spy recruiters in Washington, said a CNN report, citing current and former senior US government officials.

But Russia's Foreign Ministry angrily rejected spy allegations amid controversy over meetings Kislyak held with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday insisted Kislyak was "a well-known, world-class diplomat".