Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed back on U.S. media assertions that he oppresses his people and attacks his political opponents with comparisons to events in the United States over the past year.
The back-and-forth came after he met with President Joe Biden for a truncated summit in Geneva, Switzerland, a confab that was widely panned by several foreign policy experts and other observers.
At one point, ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scot asked the Russian leader, “President Biden has said that he would respond if cyberattacks from Russia do not stop. I’m curious: What did he tell you? Did he make any threats? And a quick follow-up, if I may, sir. The list of your political opponents who are dead, imprisoned or jailed is long. Alexey Navalny’s organization called for free and fair elections and an end to corruption, but Russia has outlawed that organization, calling it ‘extremist,’ and you have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office. So, my question, Mr. President, is what are you so afraid of?”
Responding, Putin linked the killing of George Floyd, which then sparked widespread rioting and destructive protests around the country for months last year, with some “extremist” opposition in his own country from supporters of Navalny.
“We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we do not want that to happen on our territory, and we are doing our utmost to not allow it to happen. ‘Fears’ has nothing to do with anything,” he added.
(Video: The Washington Post)
Scott responded by pressing Putin on how it is that his political opponents are all either “dead, in prison, or poisoned,” which appears to send a message that he’s not interested in a “fair” fight, but the Russian leader pivoted to the Jan. 6 protest in the U.S. and the subsequent arrest of hundreds of participants, along with the shooting death of Air Force vet Ashli Babbitt, though he did not mention her by name.
“People went into the U.S. Congress with political demands. Four hundred people are now facing criminal charges,” Putin said. “They are facing prison terms of up to 20, maybe 25 years. They are called ‘homegrown terrorists.’
“They are being accused of many other things,” Putin went on. “Seventy people were arrested on the spot. Thirty of them are still arrested. On what grounds? Not quite clear.”
He went on to mention the incident surrounding Babbitt’s killing.
“One of the participants, a woman, was shot dead on the spot. She was not threatening with arms or anything,” said the Russian leader. “Why am I bringing this up? Many people are facing the same things as we do. And I’m stressing this: We are sympathizing with the United States, but we do not want the same thing repeating here.”
Earlier, members of the U.S., Russian, and European press got into scuffles with Swiss and Russian security as they attempted to force their way into the Villa la Grange, where Biden and Putin were meeting. At one point, reports noted, correspondents could be heard angrily addressing security personnel, “Can you stop pushing!” “Don’t push me!”
Biden had his own difficulties with the American press. The president got testy with CNN White House correspondent Kaitlin Collins after his meeting with Putin, asking Biden why he is “so confident that Putin would change his behavior.”
BIDEN blowing his top and Harassing a female reporter. At a “diplomatic summit” NOT GOOD JOE. pic.twitter.com/YU9XyPkkNF
— Greg Kelly (@gregkellyusa) June 16, 2021
“I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. What the hell? What are you doing all the time?” Biden responded as he walked back towards her with a raised finger.
“What I said was, let’s get it straight, what I said was, what will change their behavior is when the rest of the world reacts to them, and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything, I’m just stating the facts,” Biden added.
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