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Q&A: US Power Claims Pussy Riot Win, Russia's Churkin Cites Gitmo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 -- Today's back and forth between US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power (in Vanity Fair magazine) and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (replying on Facebook) brings together the two diplomat trends of celebrity culture and social media.

  Vanity Fair “reported” as follows:

I reminded her that her wily Russian counterpart, Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, had mocked her for sympathetically meeting Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, the two dissidents from the Russian punk group Pussy Riot. He wondered if she’d joined the band.

I responded to him that I thought our first concert stop on tour should be where Russia holds its political prisoners, though regrettably I can’t sing.”

Did he respond to that?”

He didn’t. I got the last word. It’s what passes for small victories.”

  But Churkin has a different recollection, which he put on Facebook -- that he did respond, with an actual phone call. His post brings in Guantanamo Bay:

Samantha declared – on the internet – that she could make their first stop on tour “where Russia holds its political prisoners”. (Frankly, I thought it was rather lame – they never “performed” in Guantanamo, after all!). In the “VF” piece Samantha claims that I didn’t respond and that she “got the last word” – “It’s what passes for small victories”.

I have to set the record straight (in case this episode goes down in history through Pulitzer Prize winning memoirs which Samantha, I am sure, is going to write one day).

I DID respond. I called Samantha and explained to her that Russia did not have any political prisoners. She seemed bemused and promised to get back to me on this. She never did. She did admit grudgingly, however, that I got the upper hand in this exchange, because my response was spontaneous and hers was not.

I wouldn’t claim it was a “small victory” for me. Let those who like such sort of anecdotes judge."

  Inner City Press is a fan of social media; more is better than less. But having heard diplomats at the UN brushing off media questions with “I'll be tweeting about it,” and having seen entire wire service stories, even “exclusives,” built around a single tweet, it seems important to say, and the Free UN Coalition for Access will say it:

 Social media does not make up for on the record Q&A session that permit follow-up. We'll have more on this.


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