A senior Russian diplomatic representative complained that American diplomats have tried to "build democracy in Russia" in recent years rather than engage in other relationship-building efforts.
The remarks, coming after reports of Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to expel hundreds of American personnel from the country, were intended to blame the United States for any delays Russian people might face when seeking visas to travel to America.
But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova ranged across several aspects of the U.S.-Russia relationship, including apparent allusions to espionage and Putin's concern that pro-democracy activists are working with Americans to overthrow the Russian regime.
"They didn't have much to do to keep themselves busy in recent years other than build democracy in Russia," she posted on Facebook. "Something tells me that we have enough democracy builders in our country."
Putin ordered a major reduction in U.S. staff, in retaliation for American sanctions punishing Russian interference in the 2016 elections and aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
But that decision threatens to have an unpopular, unintended consequence: hurting Russians seeking to travel to the United States by delaying the processing of their visa applications, according former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
"The [McFaul] comments were widely reported on by Russian media, including the state-controlled TASS and Interfax news agencies," the Moscow Times noted.
Zakharova, after alluding to a case in which an alleged American spy was arrested in 2013, suggested that any delays would stem from the United States choosing to leave intelligence agents in Russia rather than consular staff.
"[T]he Americans started scaring Russian citizens with a more complicated and longer procedure of issuing visas," she wrote. "The link between reducing the number of personnel and issuing visas cannot withstand criticism because nobody has expelled Americans or told them whom to send home and whom to leave here. Hence, if Washington decides to reduce the number of people dealing with visa issuing, that will be its own sovereign rather than forced decision."
But she also mocked the U.S. process of vetting visa applicants through in-person interviews, calling it a "prehistoric" practice extended by American bureaucracy.
"I really like the arguments that such an unwieldy and antiquated visa-issuing system is designed to ‘ensure proper security,' to spot the enemy, including terrorists, criminals, etc," she wrote. "This is just another load of rubbish. Identifying terrorists is not about interviews (I don't think terrorists come clean the moment they show up at US consular offices and lock eyes with the officers), but about cooperation between intelligence services."