Russia's Foreign Ministry claims a Polish journalist made one final request upon learning he was being expelled in a tit-for-tat dispute: Take care of my cat -- Marusya.
It's a twisted tale of an inspirational feline and her "halal" habits.
It begins on December 18, when the ministry stripped the press accreditation of Waclaw Radziwinowicz, a veteran Moscow correspondent for the leading Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
It was official retaliation for the expulsion of Russian RIA Novosti correspondent Leonid Sviridov from Poland, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.
Poland had accused Sviridov of espionage and forced him to leave the country on December 12.
While Zakharova said the punishment was aimed at Warsaw, she recalled an argument with the journalist at a September press conference over Poland's decision to demolish monuments to Soviet General Ivan Chernyakhovsky. Historians say that, in addition to fighting Nazis, Chernyakhovsky repressed Polish resistance-fighters.
In interviews with news outlets, the Polish journalist described his 50-minute meeting with ministry deputy spokesman Artyom Kozhin in detail.
"When I asked if I could appeal, and if so, then to whom, Kozhin said he didn't know," Radziwinowicz told Gazeta Wyborcza. "But I have 30 days to leave Russian territory. Kozhin also couldn't answer if I would be let back into Russia, if I decide to visit Poland during holidays, and then come back for the rest of my things."
The ministry, apparently offended by the interviews, responded on Facebook that Kozhin's conversation with the correspondent had been "heartfelt."
"To our great disappointment, in W. Radziwinowicz's retelling, which has gone public, in which fiction is grotesquely combined with facts, there was no place to mention the key (at least for the duration of the discussion) moment of the entire meeting," the Facebook post reads. "Namely, his request to the Foreign Ministry of Russia 'to take care of the cat that stays here.'"
The ministry also writes that it found from "open sources" that the cat's name is Marusya, or Masya, and it eats "halal meat."
"It's a shame if W. Radziwinowicz tells his Masya that the fact that [the] ministry took away his accreditation stands behind their separation," the statement, which includes the hashtag #we'lltakecareofmarusyathecat, says. "Because, according to those same open sources, Masya wasn't just a fling, but the journalist's muse."
The ministry then addresses the cat itself, promising to take care of it, because it "promised Waclaw not to leave his cat behind."
Waclaw Radziwinowicz has not yet commented on the ministry's statement.