President Biden called Vladimir Putin’s comparison of Russian opposition protests to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot “ridiculous.”
“I think that’s a ridiculous comparison,” Biden said in a news conference following his Geneva meeting with the Russian president on Wednesday.
“It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through … go into the Capitol, kill a police officer and be held accountable,” Biden said. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died soon after the riot. His death was ruled as a result of natural causes, but the medical examiner ruled that the riot played a role in his condition.
Biden said it was different from people marching to say “you are not allowing me to speak freely.”
Putin, in his own news conference following the meeting, likened both Black Lives Matter protests that raged across the U.S. and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to the pro-democracy movement led by opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Russia.
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The Russian president was asked about the long list of his opponents who are dead or in jail and how Putin has prevented anyone who supports Navalny from running for office.
“What are you so afraid of?” ABC’s Rachel Scott asked Putin.
Putin first said that Navalny’s organization had called for mass disorder and was extremist in nature.
“America just recently had very severe events, well-known events, after the killing of an African American,” Putin responded through a translator, referring to protests following the police killing of George Floyd. “And the entire movement developed known as Black Lives Matter. I’m not going to comment on that but here’s what I do want to say. What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law, etc.,” Putin said.
“We feel sympathy for the United States of America but we don’t want that to happen on our territory. We’re doing our utmost in order to not allow it to happen.”
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Putin was again pressed on why it seems he doesn’t want a fair political fight as he seems to tamp down the opposition. He deflected to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“People rioted and went into the Congress with political demands. Many people were declared as criminals, threatened with imprisonment from 20 to 25 years. These people were immediately arrested after those events; on what grounds we don’t know always,” Putin said.
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has said he is being severely mistreated in prison and the U.S. has demanded his release.
A Moscow court last week outlawed the organizations founded by Navalny by labeling them extremist, the latest move in a campaign to silence dissent and bar Kremlin critics from running for parliament in September.
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Biden said that he did not threaten Putin, but asserted that if Navalny dies in prison, the consequences “would be devastating for Russia.” Later in the briefing, Biden said that he did not discuss any potential military response if Russia further breaches U.S. interests.