Moscow accuses Washington of destroying U.S.-Russia relations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov walk to their seats for a meeting about Syria, in Zurich, Switzerland, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Obama administration of destroying relations with Moscow in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election next month, saying on Thursday that it hoped the next occupants of the White House would be better.

In comments that underline how deeply a hacking scandal and differences over Syria and Ukraine have damaged U.S.-Russia relations, Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, told a news conference Washington was playing a dangerous game.

“We see with regret how Washington continues to destroy our bilateral relations,” said Zakharova. “The level of Russophobic propaganda coming from the very top is now starting to go off the scale.”

Calling White House accusations Russia was behind a hacking campaign against Democratic Party organizations “a lie,” she accused the Obama administration of trying to make U.S. voters perceive Russia as the enemy.

“We have the growing feeling that the outgoing U.S. administration is applying scorched earth tactics to our bilateral relations,” she said, saying such an approach was dangerous and could affect international stability.

Zakharova also warned Washington to think twice before taking any retaliatory action over the hacking scandal, suggesting the Obama administration was gearing up to use the scandal as a pretext to launch its own cyber attacks on Russia.

Detailing Russian concerns over what it believes is a NATO build-up along its borders, she accused U.S. officials at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank of trying to block funds for Russia-related projects.

“Of course, we understand that all these steps are being made to serve America’s internal pre-election set-up,” said Zakharova.

“(But) nobody should be under illusions that it’s possible to put pressure on Russia, neither today’s U.S. authorities or the people who replace them. We want to hope strongly that the new people will be smarter than the old lot.”

Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Alexander Winning