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‘The Kremlin isn’t afraid’ Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov fields questions about Alexey Navalny’s arrest

Source: Meduza
Evgeny Feldman for “Meduza”

The day after Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny was taken into custody upon returning to Moscow from Germany, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cancelled his daily press briefing. But this didn’t save him from a barrage of questions about Navalny when he came back to work on Tuesday, January 19. Here’s how he answered journalists’ questions about Navalny’s case, his calls for protests, and the international backlash over his arrest.

Kommersant FM: International media and Alexey Navalny himself believe that Vladimir Putin is afraid of Alexey Navalny, because he was arrested so quickly, and, as some believe, with some violations. What does the Kremlin think about this?

Dmitry Peskov: This is, of course, complete nonsense. In general, there’s absolutely no need to associate the president with violating the laws of the Russian Federation in any way. We know that the [Federal Penitentiary Service] had and still has complaints, certain rules have been violated. You know, actually, the statistics say that there have been violations of the rules of probation about 18,000 times in the last three years. And 18,000 times in the last three years certain measures have been used. Since we’re talking about a citizen of the Russian Federation, in this case the existence of claims against him in connection with non-compliance with legal rules has nothing to do with the President of Russia. There’s no need to associate it with the president. And various statements that someone is afraid of someone else — this is absolute nonsense.

Kommersant FM: These 18,000 times, did each one [involve] such a large police escort?

Dmitry Peskov: Yes, of course. They searched for the people and escorted [them], yes. In various ways.

Kommersant FM: And the dozens of detainees at the airport — how was this in connection with Alexey Navalny’s arrival?

Dmitry Peskov: Listen, if someone, somewhere disrupts [public] order, then the police take measures to restore public order accordingly.

Kommersant FM: Navalny also urged people to take to the streets in connection with everything that was happening. How does the Kremlin view such a call?

Dmitry Peskov: Troubling appeals. We aren’t a body that can assess this, but, certainly, probably, this could be cause for a particular review and examination on the subject of calls for something illegal. 

Kommersant FM: That’s to say that the Kremlin fears mass protests?

Dmitry Peskov: No, they’re not afraid.

Euronews: Representatives of many Western countries have appealed to Russia with demands for Alexey Navalny’s immediate release. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. Several countries are calling for sanctions. How can the Kremlin comment on this?

Dmitry Peskov: We hear these statements. However, in this case, we cannot and do not intend to take these statements into account. We’re talking about the fact of non-compliance with Russian law by a citizen of the Russian Federation. We will not allow anyone to interfere in it and don’t intend to listen to such statements. At the same time, we’re still interested in good relations, which are in no way adjusted by one individual citizen.

UNIAN: But still, Navalny didn’t register with the police because he was in Berlin, and Vladimir Putin allowed him to go to Berlin personally. Isn’t there some kind of contradiction here? After all, this was done with the authorization of the President of the Russian Federation.

Dmitry Peskov: No, there’s no contradiction here. You know that at that time when he was actually a Berlin patient in the full sense of the word, the [Federal Penitentiary Service] didn’t ask him any questions and showed absolute flexibility and understanding here. But after it was confirmed by the Charité Hospital directly that the patient had ceased to be [a patient] and was in a normal state of health, these questions arose.

UNIAN: That’s to say that the complaint here is that after he came out of a coma, he didn’t return to Russia right away?

Dmitry Peskov: It’s not even right after that. You know what was done by the Charité Hospital, they said that he was in a normal state of health and that the patient had recovered.

CNN: But he was in rehabilitation for quite a long time.

Dmitry Peskov: No, I’m talking about the specific statement from the hospital. It’s available to everyone, you can familiarize yourself with it.

CNN: His lawyers also said that they received a letter from Charité stating that he was undergoing rehabilitation until January.

Dmitry Peskov: They will be free to use these materials during the trial.

CNN: Vladimir Putin often underscores that Russia is a state ruled by law, but the court hearing that took place yesterday raised a lot of questions: from the location of the hearing itself to the procedure itself. How do such hearings in police stations correspond to the concept of rule-of-law?

Dmitry Peskov: You know, first, I advise you, of course, to go to the court for an explanation. But the only thing I can say — because it’s not my prerogative to give detailed explanations on this matter — [is that] we all know that in the last several months the courts have been working under a special regime due to covid. And what the features of this regime are and how they’re implemented in practice, it’s better for you to ask the court directly.

Dozhd: You’ve said many times that the Navalny factor isn’t’ something significant for the Kremlin, nevertheless, his return to Russia [led to] a huge number of views, discussion on social networks, all the channels that broadcast it had huge viewing ratings, and so on. Could the Kremlin comment on Alexey Navalny’s popularity and his weight today in both Russia and in the world?

Dmitry Peskov: You know, we’re not inclined to exaggerate. We tend towards a sober assessment of everything and everyone. I think that today we’ve already said more than enough on this topic, on this subject. I don’t think that we need any additional discussion on this issue.

Ekho Moskvy: [The question] is not so much about Alexey Navalny, but about the judicial system and the observance of rights. The fact is that this trial, which was already mentioned today, took place beneath a portrait of [Soviet secret police director] Genrikh Yagoda, which of course, looks like a symbol in a certain way. How does the president feel about this? How much does he like such associations, which, in general, the Russian court itself and the Interior Ministry’s system provoke among those who watch this process?

Dmitry Peskov: You know, I don’t think the president knows which portraits are hanging in which rooms in Khimki or in other regions of Russia. That’s the first thing. And the second is, if you’re interested in some associative questions related to this or that portrait on the walls at police stations, then you can contact my colleagues at the Interior Ministry. This definitely isn’t our issue. 

Ekho Moskvy: That’s to say he doesn’t know, he didn’t see this?

Dmitry Peskov: No, of course not.

Ekho Moskvy: Just one more question that concerns rights, because the president is still the guarantor of the observance of citizens’ rights according to the constitution. Given such attention from other states and many people in Russia, will the president somehow monitor more closely the situation with Alexey Navanaly, the observance of his rights in the judicial process, and the result of those actions carried out by the authorities and structures subordinate to the president — the Interior Ministry, the attorney’s office, and so on?

Dmitry Peskov: No. This isn’t a situation that demands special attention from the president. That’s the first thing. The rights of all citizens of the Russian Federation are guaranteed by the laws of the Russian Federation and the supervisory bodies of the Russian Federation. Certainly, this will be the case [here] too. And as for your comment about the fact of us taking into account some international opinion and so on, I will repeat once again: we do not intend to take international opinion into account in this case.

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