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The White House And Kremlin Take Parting Shots At Each Other

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The White House and the Kremlin are taking parting shots at each other. This just days before the president-elect takes office, Donald Trump. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Trump's foes are trying to undermine his legitimacy. The U.S. says Russia is trying to undermine global order. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: In her final speech as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power took aim at Russia for carrying out, quote, "one aggressive and destabilizing action after another."

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SAMANTHA POWER: Having defeated the forces of fascism and communism, we now confront the forces of authoritarianism and nihilism.

KELEMEN: She says Russia is meddling in U.S. politics and supporting illiberal groups in Europe. Power noted that some experts argue that the incoming Trump administration should ease sanctions to get Russia to start playing by the rules.

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POWER: But they have it backwards. Easing punitive measures on the Russian government when they haven't changed their behavior will only embolden Russia.

KELEMEN: Power spoke just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on reports that Russia has been gathering compromising material about Donald Trump. Putin denied it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRES VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KELEMEN: "People who order such fakes against the president-elect and use it in a political fight are much worse than prostitutes," Putin said. Putin often blames the Obama administration for sparking protests in Kiev's main square, the Maidan, protests that led to the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Kremlin president. Now he sees something similar brewing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KELEMEN: "I have the impression that having trained in Kiev, they now plan to stage a Maidan protest in Washington to prevent Trump from taking office," he said. The White House spokesman brushed off Putin's criticisms saying it looks like the Russian leader has Trump's talking points. And in her speech at the Atlantic Council, Ambassador Power said the U.S. must fight fiction with facts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POWER: If we try to meet the Russian government in its upside-down land, where right is left and black is white, we will have helped them achieve their goal, which is creating a world where all truth is relative and where trust in the integrity of our democratic system is lost.

KELEMEN: She recalled one example last September. An aid convoy came under fire in Syria. The Russians tried to blame others and called into question many eyewitness accounts. By the time the U.N. issued a report concluding that either Syria or Russia carried out the airstrike, Power said the finding received almost no attention.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNBITE OF PORTICO QUARTET SONG, "SU-BO'S MENTAL MELTDOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.