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April 8, 2022 12:56 pm
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‘Do You Need to Repeat Every Lie from Moscow, Mikhail?’: Russian Envoy to Iran Nuclear Talks Receives Dressing Down Over Ukraine

avatar by Ben Cohen

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna. Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to the Vienna talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, received a thoroughly undiplomatic dressing down from his French interlocutor on Friday over a tweet concerning Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Do you absolutely need to repeat every lie from Moscow, Mikhail?” Philippe Errera, the political director of the French Foreign Ministry, asked pointedly.

Sharing a photograph of the carnage resulting from a Russian missile strike on the railway station in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, Errera continued: “I don’t really need an answer, but I would respectfully ask you to take a good look at the picture, and then at yourself.”

At least 39 people were killed and 87 wounded by the strike on the station in Kramatorsk, which was packed with women, children and elderly attempting to flee the Russian onslaught. The Russian Ministry of Defense later insisted that the devastation had been caused by missiles belonging to the Ukrainian army — a claim that was enthusiastically endorsed by Ulyanov on his Twitter feed, sparking Errera’s response.

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The exchange between the two senior diplomats triggered several comments from other users. “Can you trust this man and this country to be a guarantor of the Iran deal?” asked Daniel Schwammenthal, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute, in a response to Ulyanov. Separately, Prof. Gerald Steinberg of the Israeli research institute NGO Monitor asserted that Ulyanov’s tweet demonstrated that any agreement reached in Vienna was doomed to fail.

“As with Putin, appeasement of the terror-supporting Iranian regime is a recipe for disaster,” Steinberg tweeted. “The facade of agreement will not prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Everyone can and should walk away from the Vienna talks.”

Last month, Ulyanov again attracted controversy when he delivered a message to the Vienna talks demanding that Russia’s close economic ties with Iran be exempted from the international sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The talks, which have been in progress for over a year, do not appear to be reaching a resolution; on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a television interview that he was not “overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting an agreement to conclusion.”

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