At a solo press conference on Wednesday after his meeting with President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin faced pointed questioning from ABC reporter Rachel Scott about the fates of many of his political opponents, who have ended up dead or been imprisoned on a slew of occasions. In the Trump era, the then-U.S. president may have attempted to provide some sort of cover for Putin if appearing alongside him when the Russian leader was presented with those questions, but this time, Trump remained, of course, far out of the picture.
Referencing one particularly prominent Putin critic who was recently jailed after surviving a poisoning attempt, Scott inquired as follows:
‘The list of your political opponents who are dead, imprisoned, or jailed is long. Alexei Navalny’s organization calls for free and fair elections, an end to corruption — but Russia has outlawed that organization, calling it extremist. And you have now prevented anyone who supports him [from running] for office. So my question is, Mr. President, what are you so afraid of?’
Putin responded with deflection, criticizing U.S. authorities for their stance against the Russian regime and questioning the status of political organizations that he characterized as connected to the United States, as if to suggest that the U.S. doesn’t exactly abide by the standards to which concerned observers would like to hold Russian society. As Putin put it (according to translation):
‘Right; well, once again I would like to repeat what I said about… the people who say that they are part of an unauthorized opposition. I’ve already spoken to your colleagues; now I have to repeat that to you… The U.S. has passed a law which said that the U.S. would particularly favor individual organizations in Russia, and at the same time, they declared the Russian Federation as an enemy. They publicly declared that they will try to contain Russia. My question is which political organizations in the U.S. are going to be supported by the U.S., especially if they pay them?’
Scott got a chance to follow up, asking if “all” of Putin’s political opponents being “dead, in prison, [or] poisoned” delivers “a message” that the Russian leader doesn’t “want a fair political fight.” Putin responded by pointing to the treatment by the United States of the Capitol rioters who attacked Congress in January, saying (in reference to Ashli Babbitt) that “one of the participants were just shot on the spot.” His suggestion appeared to again be that the U.S. is guilty of its own mistreatment of political dissidents — revealing that the Trump-inspired Capitol rioting has apparently provided material for anti-American and anti-democratic propaganda from the Russian leader.
Putin commented as follows:
‘Well, on the question of who is murdering whom, people rioted and went into the Congress in the U.S. with political demands, and many people were declared as criminals, and they are threatened with imprisonment from 20 to 25 years. And these people were immediately arrested after those events — on what grounds we don’t know always… One of the participants were just shot on the spot and unarmed as well. Many countries are going through exactly what we’re going through… We sympathize with what was happening in the States, but we do not wish that to happen in Russia.’
Watch the exchanges below:
"You didn't answer my question, sir. If all of your political opponents are dead, in prison, poisoned, doesn't that send a message that you do not want a fair political fight?"
Putin responds to this question by bringing up the January 6 insurrection. pic.twitter.com/n8esSY0lMT
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 16, 2021