- Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his authoritarian tactics on Wednesday.
- ABC News reporter Rachel Scott asked him why his opponents end up dead or in prison.
- Putin cited Black Lives Matter and the Capitol riot as reasons why he cracks down on dissent.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday mentioned both the Black Lives Matter movement and the January 6 Capitol insurrection as justification for the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and the Kremlin’s remarkable crackdown on dissent.
Putin was asked by ABC News reporter Rachel Scott why so many of his opponents end up dead or in prison. “What are you so afraid of?” she asked.
The longtime Russian leader and former KGB officer bristled at the question initially.
Putin, appearing solo before President Joe Biden spoke to the press, lumped the Black Lives Matter movement in with looting and violence that broke out at some protests in the US last summer.
“We saw disorder, destruction, violations of law. We feel sympathy with the USA, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory,” Putin said through an English translator.
-ABC News (@ABC) June 16, 2021
Putin also justified his government’s crackdown on dissent by comparing it to the US government’s prosecution of January 6 rioters, which is a talking point he’s reiterated a number of times in recent days that echoes GOP efforts to whitewash deadly insurrection.
“As for who is killing whom or are throwing whom in jail, people came to the US Congress with political demands,” Putin said. “Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences of up to 28, maybe even 25 years. They’re being called domestic terrorists.”
Biden did not buy Putin’s analogy when he spoke to the press later in the day.
“I think that’s a ridiculous comparison,” Biden said of Putin citing the Jan. 6 insurrection and Black Lives Matter.
The Russian president has made a habit out of deflecting to criticism of the US when pressed about his record on human rights. He also repeatedly engages in whataboutism, and tends to accuse the US and its Western allies of hypocrisy when his repressive leadership style is scrutinized.
Putin during Wednesday’s press conference continued this trend as he addressed questions about Navalny, refusing to even say the anti-corruption campaigner’s name. The Russian leader simply referred to Navalny, his most prominent critic, as “this person.”
Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok last August, which nearly killed him, and was subsequently taken to Germany for treatment. Putin, whose critics have often died in violent or suspicious ways, has been widely accused of poisoning Navalny. The Biden administration issued sanctions against Russian officials in March over Navalny’s poisoning.
Upon returning to Moscow in January, Navalny was promptly arrested and subsequently sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating parole – including while receiving treatment in Germany – from a 2014 embezzlement conviction denounced as politically motivated by top human rights groups.
Navalny’s imprisonment has prompted mass protests in Russia, but hasn’t slowed down Putin’s ruthless effort to squash dissent. Last week, Navalny’s top aide told Insider that Putin was “dumb” to put the Kremlin critic behind bars because it turned him into a symbol for people to rally behind.