Putin asks who shot Ashli Babbitt, accuses U.S. of arresting MAGA protesters for political persecution

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the Biden administration of jailing “MAGA” demonstrators who took part in the Capitol Building breach Jan. 6, likening it to “persecuting political opinions” the way a dictatorial government would do.

Putin’s comments come before a scheduled summit with President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday after he was asked in an interview in Moscow with NBC News last week about his jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Russian leader appeared to deflect the question and, instead, compared the Justice Department’s arrest of hundreds of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol earlier this year with Navalny’s treatment. Many Capitol protesters are still being held in custody months later, some for nothing more than simple trespassing. There have also been reports that some suspects have been physically abused, while others are being held for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, the latter of which has even drawn criticism from some Democrats.

“We have a saying: ‘Don’t be mad at the mirror if you are ugly,'” Putin responded, according to the Daily Mail. “It has nothing to do with you personally. But if somebody blames us for something, what I say is, why don’t you look at yourselves? You will see yourselves in the mirror, not us.”

“You are presenting it as dissent and intolerance toward dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently,” he told NBC News.

The Russian president then turned to the Jan. 6 riot, in which several hundred supporters of former President Donald Trump were caught up: “Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? … They came there with political demands.”


(Video: MSNBC)

Putin went on to deny, again, that his government was responsible for the poisoning of Navalny last year with a nerve agent that nearly took his life.

“We don’t have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,” he said, before turning sharply towards the shooting death of unarmed Capitol protestor Ashli Babbitt by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to climb through the broken window of a door leading to an anteroom outside the House chamber.

“Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” he asked.

Later, Putin vehemently denied that his country was involved in cyberattacks against the U.S.

“Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It’s becoming farcical,” Putin said. “We have been accused of all kinds of things – election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth – and not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations.”

The U.S. intelligence community normally does not publicize such evidence, nor do intelligence officials publicly discuss classified operations.


(Video: NBC Today)

Following the so-called ‘SolarWinds’ cyberattack in April involving data breaches of several federal agencies, the U.S. announced it had expelled 10 Russian diplomats and imposed new sanctions after placing blame on Russia’s foreign intelligence service.

And in May, Microsoft officials blamed the same foreign intelligence service for a cyberattack on a firm that provides computer services for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Russian-based hackers were also blamed for the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline last month, which resulted in a days-long shutdown of a gas and fuel pipeline that provides 45 percent of supply to the East Coast.

Putin also laughed off Biden’s previous characterization of him as a “killer.”

“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different calibre and fierceness, and none of it surprises me,” the Russian leader responded to a question by NBC interviewer Keir Simmons.

The Russian president expressed high regard for former President Donald Trump, describing him as an “extraordinary individual.”

Jon Dougherty

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