Russian President Vladimir Putin says opposition figure Alexei Navalny is the United States’ choice for presidency in Russia, criticizing Washington for interfering in Russian internal affairs by backing Navalny.
Last month, the US protested after Navalny was barred from running for office by the central election commission due to his criminal record, including a suspended prison sentence on fraud charges, which Navalny has dismissed.
President Putin, who enjoys huge popularity in Russia and is reportedly on course for a fourth term in office, said on Thursday that Navalny was Washington’s pick for the Russian presidency, adding that that was why the United States had complained about Navalny not being allowed to run for office.
Putin described US criticism of the Russian central election commission’s decision as crude interference in Russia’s internal affairs.
“The person you mentioned (Navalny) is not the only one who hasn’t been allowed to run (in the election), but for some reason, they are not talking about the other people,” Putin told Russian newspaper editors in a meeting broadcast on state TV.
“That obviously shows the US administration’s preferences when it comes to who they want to lead other countries, who they want to move forward in Russian politics, and who they’d like to see in the country’s leadership.”
Putin’s comments come following many months of accusations by US authorities that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, influencing voters’ opinion and helping Donald Trump get the post.
Putin said the allegations that Russia meddled in the US presidential election were nonsense.
The Russian leader expressed hope that Washington would realize that the allegations against Russia had had a negative impact on bilateral ties and were harming US interests.
The Russian president said the onus was on Washington — not Moscow — to change its viewpoint on matters in order and take positive steps to ameliorate broken ties.