US accuses Russia of 'deliberate mischaracterisation' of its foreign policy relating to Bangladesh polls

US accuses Russia of 'deliberate mischaracterisation' of its foreign policy relating to Bangladesh polls

Dhaka, Nov 25 (PTI) Bangladesh politics became the focus of a war of words between the US and Russia on Saturday as Washington accused Moscow of making 'deliberate mischaracterisation' of its foreign policy relating to the upcoming elections in the South Asian nation.

Bangladesh is going to the polls on January 7 next year.

During a regular weekly briefing in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed that US ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas and a high-ranking representative of the local opposition discussed plans to organise mass anti-government protests in the country during the meeting.

Reacting to her statement, a US State Department spokesperson in Washington said, “We are aware of Zakharova’s deliberate mischaracterisation of US foreign policy and Ambassador Haas’s meetings.” Washington's response, issued by the US embassy, came hours after the Russian embassy in Dhaka updated its website detailing Zakharova's November 22 comments in Moscow.

The US official said America wants to see a free and fair election conducted in a peaceful manner in line with the aspirations of the people of Bangladesh.

“To support that shared goal of free and fair elections conducted in a peaceful manner, US Embassy personnel engage and will continue to engage with the government, opposition, civil society, and other stakeholders to urge them to work together for the benefit of the Bangladeshi people,” he said.

“The United States does not support any political party in Bangladesh. Nor does the United States favour one political party over another,” the spokesperson said.

In her weekly briefing, Zakharova also claimed that the US ambassador promised his interlocutor to provide information support in the event that the authorities used force against participants in “peaceful demonstrations”.

The Russian foreign ministry official said these assurances were purportedly made on behalf of the embassies of the US, Britain, Australia and several other countries.

The Russian spokesperson said the action of the US ambassador to Bangladesh can be seen as nothing less than gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state on the part of “Washington and its satellites”.

“(But) on our (Russia’s) part, we have no doubts regarding the ability of the Bangladeshi authorities to hold the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 7, 2024, in full compliance with national legislation, independently, without the help of overseas well-wishers,” she said.

Zakharova asserted that Moscow has been voicing its concerns repeatedly about the attempts by the US and its allies to influence internal political processes in Bangladesh, ostensibly under the banner of ensuring “transparency and inclusiveness” in the upcoming parliamentary elections there.

She also recalled the 2013 second “Maidan protest” against the then Russian-backed regime in Ukraine saying, “We witnessed a similar scenario ten years ago,” in a slanted reference to the US role at that time.

The Maidan Protest Movement was a political upheaval that took place in Ukraine from November 2013 to February 2014. It was sparked by the government's decision to suspend an association agreement with the European Union and instead strengthen ties with Russia.

The exchange of barbs between America and Russia came two months after the US State Department criticised Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's comments during his Dhaka visit that Moscow would prevent any attempt to establish dictates and interference by Washington in the region, including in Bangladesh.

Lavrov, on a visit to Dhaka in late September, had said, “We can clearly see that the US and its allies are truly trying to promote their interests in the region by using the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy.” “Their (US) goal is clearly both to counter China and to isolate Russia in this region,' he said The Russian foreign minister’s comments drew sharp criticism from Washington at that time.

'A country that has invaded two of its neighbours, is prosecuting an aggressive war where it bombs schools and hospitals and apartment buildings on a daily basis, should not be talking about any other country imposing dictates,” a US spokesman had said then.

Bangladesh is building its first of two nuclear power plants in collaboration with Russian state-owned atomic company Rosatom at a cost of USD 12.65 billion. Ninety per cent of the amount is being financed by Moscow through a Russian loan repayable within 28 years with a 10-year grace period.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war-related sanctions delayed the construction of the plant and in December last year, Bangladesh denied entry to a Russian ship that was carrying equipment for the nuclear power plant as the vessel fell under the purview of US sanctions. PTI AR SCY AKJ SCY SCY

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