“Never has Trump been so close to failure,” right-wing politician and former lawmaker Nikolai Travkin said after Flynn’s resignation, making reference to a popular Russian joke about a fictional Soviet World War Two spy. Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Moscow from 2012 to 2014, tweeted on the changing mood in Moscow on Wednesday, asking, in Russian, “Well, colleagues, is [Trump] still yours?” McFaul referred to the widespread Russian hashtag #TrampNash, meaning “Trump is ours” and a play on words on the oft-heard phrase “Krim Nash,” or “Crimea is ours.”
The disappointment in the fledgling U.S.-Russian rapprochement seems to have been cemented, both in the Kremlin and among ordinary Russians, earlier this week with the Trump administration unexpectedly declaring that Crimea was taken forcefully by Russia and should be returned to Ukraine. Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014, the largest land-grab in Europe in decades. In a press conference on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump had made it “very clear” that he expected Russia to return Crimea, and urged Russia to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, which has recently experienced an uptick in fighting.
Russia’s reaction to the Trump administration’s seeming U-turn was swift and straightforward: “We do not return our territories,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a routine media briefing. “Crimea is a territory of the Russian Federation. That’s it.” The Kremlin also ordered state media to cut back on their overly positive coverage of Trump, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources…
Distaste for Trump is also beginning to be heard in Russia’s Muslim community, which up until now had been largely silent on what have been widely seen as Trump’s anti-Muslim tendencies. Russia is home to around 20 million Muslims — about 15 per cent of the population — and most Muslim leaders in the country enjoy a close relationship with Putin. (By contrast, the United States is home to just over 3 million Muslims). During the Trump campaign and in the brief post-inaugural honeymoon period, Muslim groups were dissuaded from talking disparagingly of Trump in order to avoid upsetting the Kremlin, community insiders say. Russia’s official response to Trump’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim-majority countries was, in the words of Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, “not our business.”