Asked Wednesday about his dismal human rights record and the jailing of dissident Alexei Navalny, Russian president Vladimir Putin tried to turn the question around by raising the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, the extrajudicial jailing of terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Black Lives Matter riots, and the rates of gun crime in American cities.
“People are shot and killed every day [in the U.S.]. You don’t have a chance to open your mouth and you’re shot dead,” Putin told reporters at a press conference following his bilateral meeting with President Biden.
Responding to a follow up question about Navalny, Putin suggested that the opposition leader and the organizations that support him are being “used” by the U.S. to “contain” Russia.
“The U.S. has declared Russia an enemy. My question is which political organizations are going to be supported by the U.S?” Putin asked, suggesting any pro-Democracy groups in his country are simply fronts for U.S. influence.
The Russian leader declined to say Navalny’s name, at one point calling him “this man” and saying Navalny was “consciously” breaking the law.
Putin then raised the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that occurred last summer, saying he “sympathizes” with the U.S. but doesn’t wish to see similar demonstrations in Russia, arguing that Navalny and his supporters wish to see such lawlessness in Russian streets.
He went on to compare his treatment of his political opponents to arrests made in the U.S. following the Capitol riot on January 6.
“People rioted and went into Congress, with political demands, many people were declared as criminals and they are threatened with imprisonment,” he said.
Putin said “many people are facing the same things we do.”
Despite his accusatory rhetoric in the press conference, Putin said there was “no hostility” in meeting with Biden” and it “took place in a constructive spirit.”
“Both sides expressed the intention to understand each other and to seek common ground,” he said, adding that they agreed to “begin consultations” on cybersecurity.
He also announced that he and President Biden have agreed to return their ambassadors to their respective posts in Washington and Moscow.
The announcement comes after Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov and U.S. ambassador to Russia John Sullivan had both returned to their home country several months ago amid heightened tensions.
Putin said it is not yet clear when the ambassadors will return to their posts.
He called Biden “very different” from former President Donald Trump and said, “His predecessor had a different view. This one decided to act differently. His reply was different from Trump’s.”
“If you ask me what kind of partner President Biden is, I would say he’s a balanced and professional man, and it’s clear that he’s very experienced,” Putin said, adding that “It seems to me that we did speak the same language.”