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Putin compared his crackdown on dissent to the US prosecution of Capitol rioters and the killing of Ashli Babbitt ahead of his summit with Biden

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Russian President Vladimir Putin was questioned on NBC News about his crackdown on domestic dissent ahead of his summit with US President Joe Biden on June 16.. NBC News
  • Russia's Vladimir Putin deflected criticism of his crackdown on dissent in an NBC interview.

  • Putin highlighted the US prosecution of Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on January 6.

  • The interview set the stage for a tense upcoming summit between Putin and Joe Biden.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Russian President Vladimir Putin compared his crackdown on domestic dissent with the US prosecution of rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6, attempting to use American unrest to deflect criticism of his actions.

The comments came in a provocative interview with NBC ahead of his summit with President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

In the exchange broadcast Monday night, Putin was asked by international correspondent Keir Simmons if he ordered the assassination of Russian dissident Alexander Navalny. Thousands of people who've protested in support of Navalny have been arrested.

Navalny survived an assassination attempt last year and left Russia which he blamed on Putin, but returned and was imprisoned in a penal colony.

Putin deflected the question by raising the death of Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter killed by a police officer as she attempted to break into the House chamber during the Capitol riot on January 6.

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"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. They came with political demands. 450 people," said Putin.

"They're facing - they're looking- they're- they're looking at jail time, between 15 and 25 years. And they came to the Congress with political demands," Putin continued.

"Isn't that persecution for political opinions? 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."

The 521 protesters charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol have been accused of offences including assaulting police officers, and unlawful entry to the Capitol. They have not been prosecuted for their political views, the expression of which is protected under the First Amendment.

The Russian president went on to say that protesters arrested in Russia had violated the law.

"The people who you have mentioned, yes, they were convicted for violating their status, having been previously convicted... given suspended sentences, which were essentially warning to not violate the Russian laws."

Putin was repeatedly accused by Simmons of using a rhetorical fallacy called "whataboutism" to deflect criticism. The technique involves responding to a difficult question with variations on the form "what about [bad thing somebody else did]?"

Russia has sought to exploit the domestic divisions in the US highlighted by the Capitol riot ahead of the Wednesday summit between Biden and Putin in Geneva.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed at a Moscow press conference in June that Capitol rioters were being "persecuted." On Monday Russian state TV broadcast an interview with a protester filmed with his feet up on a desk in Nancy Pelosi's office during the riot.

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