Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet his US counterpart Joe Biden at a summit Wednesday. Before the meeting Putin tried to put the pressure on Biden by talking about people arrested for rioting at the Capitol. Vladimir Putin said that ‘hundreds of people arrested for rioting at the US Capitol are being subjected to persecution for political opinions’.
Putin is likely to come under strong criticism from Biden at their meeting in Geneva for moves against his political opponents in Russia. Among them is the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the detention of thousands of demonstrators protesting his arrest, and the outlawing of Navalny’s organisations as ‘extremist’.
“You are presenting it as dissent and intolerance toward dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently,” Putin said in an interview with NBC News broadcast Monday. He then pointed to the January 6 insurrection in Washington when protesters barged into the Capitol. They tried to halt the count of electoral votes to certify Biden’s election victory over Donald Trump.
“Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress?… They came there with political demands,” Putin said.
Although the protests that erupted across Russia after Navalny’s arrest in January were unsanctioned, demonstrators were largely peaceful. They did not enter government buildings or cause significant property damage, unlike the Capitol riot.
Putin also reiterated denials that the Kremlin was behind last year’s poisoning of Navalny with a nerve agent that nearly killed him. “We don’t have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,” Putin said.
“Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” Putin said. He was referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to climb through a window that led to the House floor.
Putin also sharply dismissed allegations that Russia is carrying out cyberattacks against the United States as baseless. “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,” he added.
In April, the United States announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and new sanctions connected to the so-called SolarWinds cyberattack in which several US Government branches experienced data breaches. US Officials blamed the Russian foreign intelligence service.
In May, Microsoft officials said the foreign intelligence service appeared to be linked to an attack on a company providing services to the US Agency for International Development.
At the summit, Biden also is expected to raise the case of two Americans imprisoned in Russia. They are Paul Whelan, who was convicted of espionage, and Trevor Reed, convicted of assaulting police while drunk. US officials say both were convicted in biased trials on flimsy evidence. Putin said of Reed, a 29-year-old former Marine: “He’s just a drunk and a troublemaker.”