In the five years since she became the first woman to serve as the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova has become a household name internationally, ruffling quite a few feathers, but leaving nobody impartial.
Zakharova has quickly become known for pulling no punches in her daily briefings, as well as on social media.
Likewise, the spokesperson, whom the BBC once included on its list of the world’s top 100 inspirational and influential women, has not been shy to showcase her life outside the press room, with a video of her performing a traditional Kalinka folk dance in front of dozens of dignitaries at the Russian-ASEAN summit in 2016 becoming an instant viral hit.
‘War of puns’ over Syria
Zakharova does not hold back when it comes to defending Russia’s foreign policy interests, whether it’s Syria, Ukraine, the Skripal saga, or the infamous Russiagate. When decrying remarks by then-US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner in February 2016, who urged Russia to “put up or shut up” over Syria’s truce, Zakharova was having none of the undiplomatic figurative speech, coming back with: “Mark had better order his own colleagues to shut up, if such an idiomatic style of communication is common among American diplomats.”
‘Stop spreading lies and fake news’
Zakharova has never been a fan of US mainstream media, especially those peddling the now-debunked Russiagate narrative.
When asked by a CNN crew about spying allegations against former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak after a briefing in Moscow in March 2017, she told a CNN reporter to his face: “Come on, stop spreading lies and fake news. This is good advice for CNN. Thank you,” before walking away.
A poem for John Kerry
Zakharova is also known for having a soft spot for poetry. And, during a briefing in May 2016, she used poetry as a diplomatic tool. Responding to a question about intensified telephone contacts between her boss, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and then-US state secretary John Kerry, she recited a slightly altered version of a poem by Robert Burns.
“His heart is in Moscow. His heart is not there.
“His heart is in Moscow, chasing a bear.
“Chasing not grizzly, but Kremlinese.
“His heart is in Moscow, wherever John is.”
Aside from her tongue-in-cheek remarks, Zakharova is perhaps better known for her dance moves. While attending the 58th Brass Band Festival in Serbia in August 2018, she was filmed moving to the grooves of Balkan music.
Being a versatile dancer, Zakharova later saddled the beat of the Causcian traditional dance, ‘Lezginka,’ at a youth forum in North Caucasus a year later.
But, probably, her most famous performance still remains the fiery rendition of the Russian folk dance, ‘Kalinka.’
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