Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has a challenge for the head of the US delegation to the United Nations: come visit Syria with me.
The dare was put before US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power on Saturday as the latest in a back and forth of verbal slams between the two over the US likely mistakenly hitting a group of Syrian soldiers during an airstrike on Saturday.
Soon after the strike, Zakharova told state-owned TV network Russia-24 that the bombing was proof that the US is supporting ISIS. “If previously we had suspicions that Al-Nusra Front is protected this way, now, after today's airstrikes on the Syrian army we come to a really terrifying conclusion for the entire world: The White House is defending ISIS," she said.
Russia, along with the Syrian government, frequently refers to all rebel groups within Syria as terrorists, placing them in the same basket as Jahbat al-Nusra, a jihadi group with ties to al Qaeda.
Russia called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday to discuss the bombing, giving Power a platform to call out what she labeled as "a stunt replete with moralism and grandstanding."
"Russia has billed itself as the world’s defender against terrorism," Power told reporters gathered outside the Council chamber. "And part of what it is alleging tonight is that somehow the United States is undermining the fight against ISIL. Indeed, the Russian spokesperson, I believe, came out and thought somehow that we were complicit and that we were even trying to protect ISIL. Really? American citizens have been beheaded by this group. We are leading a 67-country coalition to destroy this group. ISIL has lost 40 percent of its territory. This is serious for us; it is not a game. And that spokesperson who suggested complicity really should be embarrassed."
Her statement, among the most heated Power has delivered towards Russia in her time as ambassador, presaged her walking out of the meeting when her Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, began to speak.
Zakharova hit back at Power on Sunday, in a Facebook post inviting the ambassador to join her on a trip to Syria. "Dear Samantha Power, in order to know the meaning of the word 'embarrassed,' I highly encourage you to travel to Syria and talk to the people there for yourself," she wrote, according to a translation from state-owned RT.
"Let's go together," she wrote. “Do say yes. Don’t be frightened. Nobody will lay a finger on you in my presence. Unless, of course, your guys don’t again ‘mistakenly’ strike the wrong target. You’ll make lots of new memories. And find out what ‘embarrassed’ means in the process."
The US Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to questions regarding Power's comment to Zakharova.
The UN Security Council is holding a high-level meeting on Wednesday to discuss Syria, where US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to attend. The odds that any document endorsing a recent Russia-US cooperation deal on Syria seem slim, however, following Saturday's airstrike and Friday's cancellation of a closed-door Security Council meeting to discuss the deal, due to the US' unwillingness to share many of the details with other council members.