The spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. on Tuesday of a “direct interference in our electoral process” after the State Department came out against the Kremlin’s decision to prevent opposition leader Alexey Navalny from running against Vladimir Putin in the upcoming presidential election.
“This statement by the U.S. Department of State, which I’m sure will not be the only one, is a direct interference into the electoral process and the state’s domestic affairs,” Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook, echoing language U.S. intelligence agencies have used to describe Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
On Christmas Day, one day after Navalny registered as a candidate, Russia’s Central Electoral Commission formally barred the popular activist and attorney from competing in the race.
The justification given was a four-year-old criminal conviction for embezzlement revived in February of this year, as the New York Times reported at the time. Navalny and his supporters claim the charge was politically motivated.
In a statement provided to TPM, a State Department spokesperson criticized the Kremlin’s “ongoing crackdown against independent voices” and urged Russia’s government to “hold genuine elections that are transparent, fair, and free and that guarantee the free expression of the will of the people, consistent with its international human rights obligations.”
This unequivocal criticism from the U.S. was brushed aside by Russia’s leadership, who have denied allegations that they intervened in the 2016 race to swing the results in President Donald Trump’s favor.
“The funniest thing is that these are the same people who just branded RT and Sputnik as foreign agents, who are harassing Russian media around the world and who are investing huge amounts of money into ‘countering Russian propaganda,’ which is how they label anyone who they disagree with,” Zakharova wrote on Facebook, referring to the U.S. government’s decision to require several major English-language Russian state publications to register with the Justice Department as foreign agents.
“And these people expressed outrage over alleged Russian ‘interference’ in their electoral process for an entire year?!” Zakharova added.
Russia’s presidential election is scheduled for March 2018, and Putin, who has been in power since 2000, is almost certain to win.
This post has been updated.