Russian president Vladimir Putin has accused the US government of double standards when it came to prosecuting hundreds of Capitol rioters, while condemning a crackdown on anti-government protesters in Belarus.
Mr Putin told the St Petersburg International Economic Forum that the crowds who swarmed the Capitol building on January 6 “weren’t just a crowd of robbers and rioters. Those people had come with political demands”, as reported by the BBC.
Around 500 people were arrested in the wake of the riot, which left five people dead and around 140 injured.
Some are still being held in solitary confinement with Senator Elizabeth Warren calling the method “cruel”.
The 68-year-old Russian leader, who is in his fourth term since 1999, is due to meet with US President Joe Biden in Switzerland on June 16.
Mr Putin said he had no expectations but denied any interference in US elections by Russia.
He told the forum: “We need to find ways of looking for a settlement in our relations, which are at an extremely low level now. “We don’t have any issues with the US. But it has an issue with us.”
He continued: “It wants to contain our development and publicly talks about it. Economic restrictions and attempts to influence our country’s domestic politics, relying on forces they consider their allies inside Russia, stem from that.”
The BBC reported that earlier this week that Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, claimed that Capitol rioters were being “persecuted”.
Mr Putin also warned that the US is going along the same “path as the Soviet Union” and was over confident.
He said: “You know what the problem is? I will tell you as a former citizen of the former Soviet Union. What is the problem of empires — they think that they are so powerful that they can afford small errors and mistakes. But the number of problems is growing. There comes a time when they can no longer be dealt with. And the United States, with a confident gait, a firm step, is going straight along the path of the Soviet Union.”