During a Monday interview with NBC News, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States government of assassinating Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
When asked by NBC’s Keir Simmons if Putin had ordered the assassination of Russian dissenter Alexei Navalny, Putin responded, “Of course not. We don’t have this kind of habit of assassinating anybody. That’s one.”
Navalny was almost killed while traveling from Siberia to Moscow last summer and was detained after returning to Russia earlier this year. Russian agents have been accused of attempting to murder Navalny.
“Number two is I want to ask you: Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman? Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? And they didn’t go there to steal a laptop,” Putin asked, referencing Babbitt, who died after she was shot in the Capitol building by a still-unnamed Capitol Police officer.
“They came with political demands. Four hundred fifty people have been detained. They’re looking at jail time, between 15 and 25 years,” the Russian president asked. “And they came to the Congress with political demands. Isn’t that persecution for political opinions?”
Putin accused the Biden administration of failing to uphold legal procedures in an effort to impose harsher punishments for the Capitol demonstrators, whereas the Russian dissidents, Putin claimed, received due process.
“Some have been accused of plotting to topple – to take over government power. Some are accused of – robbery. They didn’t go there to rob,” Putin said. “The people who you have mentioned, yes, they were convicted for violating their status, have been previously convicted – given convent – given suspended sentences – which were essentially warning to not – violate the Russian laws.”
On Wednesday, Putin doubled down on comparisons between the US government’s handling of the January 6 Capitol storming and how Russia deals with dissidents.
“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, according to comments translated by Fox News.
President Joe Biden called Putin’s assessment of the arrests following the Capitol Hill protest “ridiculous.”
“I think that’s a ridiculous comparison,” Biden told reporters during a press conference following his meeting with Putin 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, likely referencing Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, whose death shortly after the demonstration was ruled to have occurred due to natural causes.