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Russia stepped up its rhetoric against the Trump administration in the wake of its missile attack on Syria, calling it "primitive" and "inconsistent."
This came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow on Wednesday, with the top U.S. diplomat receiving a barrage of criticism from Russian officials. Ahead of a meeting with Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he wanted to know what the real intentions of the U.S. administration are, following last week's attack on Syria in response to a deadly chemical attack in a rebel-held area.
Lavrov the U.S. must not conduct more military strikes on Russian-backed Syria, according to Reuters. He said last week's action violated the law.
Lavrov also said Russia has lots of questions about the "ambiguous" and "contradictory" ideas coming from the U.S. administration, according to The Associated Press. The news agency also described how Russia's top diplomat subtly mocked Tillerson for the fact that his top State Department roles are currently unfilled.
But some of the harshest comments came from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Going one step further than Lavrov, he said: "In general, primitiveness and loutishness are very characteristic of the current rhetoric coming out of Washington. We'll hope that this doesn't become the substance of American policy," Russia's state-owned RIA news agency reported.
The escalation of words marks a significant shift in U.S.-Russia relations. Donald Trump's election raised expectations that he could strengthen the relationship, but that seems now hard to achieve in the wake of the attack on Syria. U.S. officials have declared that Russia was complicit in the chemical attack and have urged Moscow to realign with the West and break ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"As a whole, the administration's stance with regards to Syria remains a mystery. Inconsistency is what comes to mind first of all," Ryabkov added.
Tillerson told reporters that Wednesday's meeting aimed at clarifying the positions of the U.S. and Russia when it comes to the six-year war in Syrian. Tillerson could also meet with Russia President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing a Kremlin spokesperson.
In a TV interview that aired Wednesday, Putin said the relationship with the United States has deteriorated since Trump took office.
"One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved, but rather has deteriorated," Putin said, according to translated remarks by the Kremlin.
Putin added that Syria had given up its chemical weapons stocks, Reuters also reported.