Russia’s government lodged a formal complaint last month with the United Nations over a top UN official’s condemnations of Donald Trump and some European politicians, diplomats told, an intervention that underscores the unusual links between the Republican presidential nominee and the Kremlin. There is no evidence Trump sought Russia’s assistance, or was even aware of the criticism by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, issued a verbal “demarche” to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a private meeting on Septmber 13, according to three diplomats familiar with the conversation. Churkin angrily protested a pair of speeches by Zeid that denounced “demagogues” and specifically targeted Trump and several populist leaders in Europe, even likening their tactics to Islamic State propaganda.
In a speech in Cleveland three months before Republicans gathered there to nominate Trump, Zeid said: “Less than 150 miles away from where I speak, a front-running candidate to be president of this country declared, just a few months ago, his enthusiastic support for torture.”
“In what may be a crucial election for leadership of this country later this year, we have seen a full-frontal attack disguised as courageous taboo-busting on some fundamental, hard-won tenets of decency and social cohesion that have come to be accepted by American society,” he said.
Demarches, or formal, diplomatic communications, are everyday occurrences. At the United Nations, they’re generally used to question broader foreign policy questions and sometimes used to complain. But they rarely center on specific individuals, let alone involve a Russian complaint about how the UN is treating an American politician.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to several requests for comment. Churkin’s personal intervention could add to questions about the relationship between Trump and Russia.
Trump has praised Putin’s strength and leadership, vowing to improve ties between Washington and Moscow if he defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8. He has questioned whether NATO, an alliance of Western nations formed to counter the Soviet Union, is outdated; wrongly suggested Russia hasn’t entered Ukraine although it annexed the Crimea region in 2014 and is supporting anti-government rebels in the east; and he urged Moscow to find emails that Clinton deleted from the private server she used while secretary of state.
The diplomatic complaint could revive charges that Moscow is interfering in the presidential election, following accusations by the US government that Russia sponsored cyber-intrusions like the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails.