The United States condemns Moscow’s crackdown on protesters, prompting a swift rebuke from President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
Russia accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs following a crackdown on demonstrators supporting opposition leader Alexey Navalny, but a spokesperson for Vladimir Putin said the Russian president would be willing to speak to US President Joe Biden.
On Saturday, the United States strongly condemned “the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities across Russia” and called for the release of those arrested.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in support of Navalny, who was arrested on his return to Moscow last weekend after months of treatment in Germany for near-fatal poisoning.
More than 3,500 protesters were arrested on Saturday during protests across the country, and several injured in clashes with police in Moscow.
The Russian Foreign Ministry quickly reprimanded the condemnation of the United States.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov particularly criticized a US embassy “protest alert” that warned US citizens in Russia of possible unrest, telling a state television station on Sunday that Washington s ‘interfered “absolutely” in the internal affairs of Russia.
“Of course, these posts are inappropriate,” Peskov said.
However, Peskov also adopted a more conciliatory tone and said Russia was ready to enter into a dialogue with the Biden administration, which has pledged to rebuild a coalition of European allies against the Kremlin.
“This will be the dialogue where, of course, the differences will have to be expressed to a greater extent … But at the same time, a dialogue is a possibility of finding rational cores, the small parts where our relationships come together,” he said.
“And if the current US administration is ready for such an approach, I have no doubt that our president will respond in kind.”
Moscow and Washington remain deeply divided on a number of issues.
The United States has repeatedly condemned Russia’s support for Ukrainian separatists, as well as its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its intervention in the civil war in Libya.
U.S. intelligence officials also accuse Russian agents of seeking to meddle in the country’s 2016 presidential election through hacking, manipulation of social media, and posting of ill-obtained information intended to harm the country’s candidate. then, Hillary Clinton.
Biden, who has told by telling Putin “I don’t think you have a soul” and calling Russia “the greatest threat” to American security, promised to take a harsher line against “autocrats like Putin” than the former US President Donald Trump.
During the election campaign, Biden also criticized the poisoning of Navalny, saying it was proof that Russia is “so paranoid that it does not want to tolerate any criticism or dissent.”
The Kremlin has remained visibly silent after Biden’s election victory, with Putin one of the last world leaders to congratulate him.
Meanwhile, the two countries have pressing issues to resolve, including the new arms control treaty START, which is due to expire on February 5.
The White House said last week that Biden would seek a five year extension to the agreement, which calls for reducing the number of nuclear missile launchers.
The Kremlin said it “welcomes” the proposal, but added that “everything will depend” on the details.