The U.K. Foreign Office has brushed off Moscow's complaints about Prince Charles reportedly likening President Vladimir Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and has told a Russian diplomat who came in for explanations that Moscow should take a step back from meddling in Ukraine.
Sian MacLeod, the Foreign Office's additional director for eastern Europe and Central Asia, met Thursday with Russian Deputy Ambassador to the U.K. Alexander Kramarenko at his request, according to statements by the two diplomatic agencies.
"In response to Mr Kramarenko's representations, the director said the Foreign Office could not be expected to comment upon reports of private conversations, and restated the government's hope that ahead of the Ukrainian presidential elections Russia would step back from comment or actions provoking instability in Ukraine," the U.K. Foreign Office said in an online statement.
The Russian Embassy appeared irked by the response, saying in its own statement that MacLeod had "in effect, avoided giving explanations regarding this matter, saying that it is a case of nothing but media reports about a private conversation."
"All of this cannot but cause regret," the embassy said in a statement on its website.
The diplomatic spat has prompted a series of taunts in Russia and overseas.
Ekho Moskvy radio host Tonya Samsonova summarized the British response on her Facebook page, saying MacLeod told the Russian ambassador: "We don't comment on Prince Charles here... but since you dropped by, we wanted to tell you once again: Ahead of the elections in Ukraine — stay away from them."
Across the Atlantic, The New Yorker magazine's Andy Borowitz posted a satirical "apology from Prince Charles," mocking the supposed parallels between Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938 and Russia's annexation of Crimea this spring.
"What I should have said, and what I say to you now, is that this Putin chap can be a bit Hitlery at times," Borowitz said in his fake "Prince Charles" letter of apology. "Let's take, for example, his penchant for taking territory that doesn't belong to him and then adding it to his country and so forth.
Borowitz also took issue with British politicians who called for Prince Charles to abdicate over his remark — made during a conversation with a Polish refugee — that by meddling in Ukraine, "now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler."
"If memory serves, back in the nineteen-thirties another chap went around trying to punish people for speaking their minds," Borowitz wrote. "I'm not going to name names, but if the shoe fits..."