Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday criticised anti-racism protests in the United States for sparking crowd violence, in his first comments on the issue.
“If this fight for natural rights, legal rights, turns into mayhem and rioting, I see nothing good for the country,” Putin said in an interview with Rossiya-1 television to be broadcast in full Sunday evening.
“We have never supported this,” he said.
The Russian leader stressed he supported black Americans’ struggle for equality, calling this “a long-standing problem of the United States”.
“We always in the USSR and in modern Russia had a lot of sympathy for the struggle of Afro-Americans for their natural rights,” he insisted.
But Putin added that “when — even after crimes are committed — this takes on elements of radical nationalism and extremism, nothing good will come of this.”
Putin also described the protests as a sign of “deep-seated internal crises” in the United States, linking the unrest to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said “has shone a spotlight on general problems”.
He said he nevertheless expected that the “fundamental basis of American democracy will allow the country to escape this series of crisis events”.
Asked about reactions to the US protests including demonstrations in Europe and statues being pulled down, Putin said “this is undoubtedly a destructive phenomenon”.
He suggested protesters wanted only Afro-American doctors to treat Afro-Americans and said this would be impossible in “multi-ethnic Russia”.
The interview was billed as Putin’s first since the start of the pandemic though it is not clear when it was recorded.
The president made his first public appearance at an open-air event in Moscow on Friday after weeks of lockdown at his country residence.