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‘This isn’t how politics is done’ Putin compares opposition protests in Russia to the storming of the U.S. Capitol 

Source: Meduza
Sergey Bobylev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

During a video conference with university students to mark Russian Students Day (a public holiday that falls on January 25), President Vladimir Putin was asked to share his thoughts on the countrywide protests in support of opposition figure Alexey Navalny that took place on January 23. In particular, Putin was asked to comment on young people’s involvement in the demonstrations. Here’s what he had to say.

— As you know, even disinterested people aren’t spared the flow of information about the recent unrest in a number of regions and in some of our country’s cities. And the attention young people paid to this issue, both in the social spheres and on social networks, as well as in real life, didn’t go unnoticed. After all, it’s a well-known fact that young people tend to express their opinion on any question and this topic was no exception. How would you comment on this situation? What do you think about this matter?

Thank you for your question. I’ve spoken about such topics many times already and I want to underscore: all people have the right to express their point of view within the legal framework. Everything that oversteps the law is not only counterproductive, but also dangerous.

In the history of our country we have repeatedly encountered situations where the situation went far beyond the law and led to such a stirring up of society and the government. [And] it wasn’t just those who stirred up the government and society who suffered because of it, but also those people who had nothing to do with it. This was the case after the First World War, as a result of the October Revolution [...] What good intentions guided the people who rocked the Russian Empire and what did it lead to? I won’t list everything right now. 

Or in the ’90s when everything seemed so bad that it couldn’t get any worse. No, after the collapse of the Soviet Union it got so much worse and no one could have imagined that this was possible. I’m not even talking about the loss of the geopolitical positions of a greater Russia, but in the lives of specific people: the economy collapsed, the army collapsed, the law enforcement field, medicine, everything. Everything collapsed. And people went through the difficult test of a civil war, effectively, which was launched by international terrorism in the Caucasus. 

You can do everything, but not by overstepping the law. Look at what happened in the United States. A mob captured the parliament. We had a moment when they were shooting at the parliament in the center of Moscow. Young people don’t even know this. They were shooting from tanks. Directly, direct fire at the parliament building. And this was not so long ago. You young people, if you’re schoolchildren, didn’t see this at all, you didn’t hear it, for them it’s the same as Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow in 1812. So far away they don’t even feel it. But grown people should know this, they should remember, and under no circumstances should they allow this, especially responsible people. 

In Washington they captured the parliament. What are they doing with these people? As one of the leaders of the FBI said: “We have long arms, we’ll catch everyone, we’ll jail everyone.” For 15 to 25 years, for domestic terrorism. But what are they? They also came out with political slogans, but outside of the law. Why should everything outside of the law be allowed here [in Russia]? No. Moreover, under no circumstances should minors be pushed forward. After all, terrorists do this when they throw women and children in front of themselves. [This] shifts the focus a little, but in essence it’s the same thing. 

So I want to say once again: all people have the right to political activity, to express their opinion, to promote their opinion in the public mind. But within the legal framework. Also, law enforcement agencies must act within the scope of the law. They too must fulfill their duty of serving the people of Russia and the state, but also within the framework of their official duties and within the framework of the law. I hope that in this way we will succeed and move forward.

By the way, all of the events of this kind that I’m speaking about now...Nobody should resort to them [while] trying to defend their own ambitious goals and aims, especially in the political sphere. This isn’t how politics is done, not responsible [politics], at any rate.

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