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Russian Media Claims About State Spokeswoman Appear To Be Fantasy

Jen Psaki

An article about a U.S. State Department spokeswoman in the official newspaper of the Russian government appears to be completely made up.

On June 20, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported that Jen Psaki had rejected claims that Ukrainians were fleeing to Russia's southern Rostov region.

According to the newspaper, AP's diplomatic correspondent, Matthew Lee, then asked her to explain "all the women and children arriving in Russia's regions."

"It's tourists" who come for Rostov's "beautiful mountains and curative air" she reportedly responded "without hesitation."

The first problem with the statement? Rostov is generally flat, with no land more than 253 meters above sea level.

The second problem? The conversation apparently never took place.

Lee denied it on Twitter today.

And there was no similar conversation found in a search of State Department transcripts.

But the phantom back-and-forth between him and Psaki, which was apparently first reported on a talk show on Russia's state-run First Channel, had already quickly spread in Russian media. A Russian-language Google News search for mentions of Psaki and Rostov on June 20 returned over 120 results.

"Psaki has once again demonstrated her incompetence," tweeted LifeNews, an outlet believed to have ties to Russia's security services. "She called Ukrainian refugees tourists."

Psaki has been in the crosshairs of Russian media and supporters of the Kremlin since early May, when, in explaining Washington's refusal to recognize separatist referendum votes in eastern Ukraine, she mentioned carousel voting -- an election rigging method by which voters are bussed around to cast ballots in multiple polling stations.

Lee, the AP correspondent, followed up by asking her to explain the term and Psaki awkwardly admitted that she was not "familiar with it."

Shortly after, Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of Russia's propaganda arm, Russia Today, introduced "Psaking," a new word based on the incident.

"“People say [Psaking] when someone makes a dogmatic statement about something they don’t understand, mixes facts up, and then doesn’t apologize," he said.

As of writing "Rossiiskaya gazeta" had not yet issued a correction.

-- Glenn Kates