(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has complained to Russia about harassment of the American ambassador to Moscow and will raise concerns about his security, a State Department spokesman said.
Ambassador Michael McFaul has reported that his every move seems to be followed by crews from a government-controlled television station, prompting security worries.
On Friday State Department Mark Toner was asked about McFaul's concerns. "Have we raised this with the government of Russia? Indeed we have," Toner said. "There have been a number of incidents since his arrival there that have caused us to have some concerns about his security and safety. We've raised that with the government of Russia."
In a series of tweets on Thursday, McFaul - a prolific Twitter user, in both English and Russian, since he arrived in Moscow in January - said he encounters crews from the government-controlled TV channel NTV wherever he goes, and suggested that his email and phone calls may be being intercepted:
"Wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn't tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things?" . . .
"Do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?"
A spokesman for NTV, which is owned by an arm of the state natural gas monopoly, said the presence of camera crews "is explained by a wide network of informers," according to the Interfax news agency.
On Thursday, the station showed video of McFaul and its reporters verbally sparring as he arrived for a meeting with Lev Ponomarev, one of Russia's most prominent human rights activists. In the five-minute clip, the reporter peppers him with questions about his meeting and after answering, McFaul complains about their following him.
"Your ambassador in our country goes around all the time without this sort of thing, not interfering in his work. You're with me everywhere, at home it's interesting. Aren't you ashamed to be doing this? It's an insult to your country when you do this," McFaul said in Russian, smiling but clearly irritated.
At another point, McFaul says: "Every time I come here, it seems like a wild country. It's not normal."
When one journalist objected to that characterization, McFaul replied: "No it's not normal. It doesn't happen with us, not in England, not in Germany, not in China only here and only with you."
On Friday McFaul tweeted that he had misspoken in bad Russian and did not mean to say Russia was "wild." Rather, he said he meant to say that the actions of NTV were "wild."
Then he engaged in a back and forth about the situation with a person whose Twitter handle is "prostitutkamila."
"Were not just journalists there. Were men in military uniform. People w/ posters. All strange for me. Learning. . . . I'm told they were Cossacks. In US, people in uniform do not show up at mtgs of ambassadors. "
Asked about McFaul's tweets that Cossacks or men in uniforms have been showing up at his events, and the fact that he responded to Twitter handle prostitutekamila," the Sate Department's Toner said, "Avatars come in all shapes and forms"