GENEVA (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin batted away a question about his crackdown on political rivals on Wednesday by saying he was trying to avoid the “disorder” of a popular movement such as Black Lives Matter in the United States.
Putin, speaking at a news conference after a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva, said he did not want to see something like the Black Lives Matter movement happen in Russia, but also criticized the arrest of many of those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“America just recently had very severe events, well known events after the killing of an African American. An entire movement developed, known as Black Lives Matter,” he said.
“What we saw was disorder, disruption, violations of the law, etc. We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory and we’ll do our utmost in order to not allow it to happen,” he said.
He then seemed to question the legitimacy of arresting the Jan. 6 rioters, who sought to stop Biden’s certification as president after he beat Donald Trump in a general election by over seven million votes. “People came to the U.S. Congress with political demands. 400 people, over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them…they’re being called domestic terrorists. They’re being accused of other crimes,” Putin said.
Biden said in his own news conference afterward that any comparison between what happened on Jan. 6 and the Black Lives Matter movement was “ridiculous.” “It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through a cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer and be held unaccountable, than it is for people objectively marching on the capitol and saying ‘You are not allowing me to speak freely.’”
Putin’s political rival Alexei Navalny is serving 2-1/2 years in jail on embezzlement charges he says are trumped up. His allies have accused Russian authorities of using the law to crush opposition to the ruling United Russia party ahead of September parliamentary elections.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Polina Ivanova and Heather Timmons; editing by Andrew Osborn and Sonya Hepinstall)