MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the Kremlin has “constructive” relations with Washington and voiced hope that mutual interests would eventually help normalize U.S.-Russia ties.
Putin, speaking during a panel discussion at an international energy conference in Moscow, also said that Russia stands ready to boost natural gas supplies to help assuage nervous energy markets in Europe, insisting that his country wants prices to remain stable.
He rejected the allegations from some European experts and politicians that Russia has been holding up gas deliveries and causing energy prices to spike. The Russian leader also rebuffed criticism of an ongoing domestic crackdown on dissent and independent media.
Putin strongly defended a Russian law requiring those who receive foreign funds and engage in unspecified political activities to register as “foreign agents," describing it as a quid pro quo response to a U.S. law that has been used to target Russian media organizations in the United States.
Critics say the Russian law has been used to muzzle critical media outlets since the “foreign agent” stigma has strong pejorative connotations and implies closer government scrutiny.
Dmitry Muratov, who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his work as editor of independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, wondered if authorities would designate his paper as a “foreign agent.”
Asked Wednesday if that was a possibility, Putin responded that Muratov shouldn't worry “if he doesn't violate the Russian law and doesn't give a pretext to be designated as a foreign agent.”
“But if he tries to shield himself with the Nobel Peace Prize to do something that violates the Russian law, it would mean he would do it deliberately to attract attention or for some other reason,” the president added.
Putin also spoke scathingly of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charging that he was trying “to get business advantages by shielding himself with political activities.” As per his custom, Putin did not mention Navalny by name.
Navalny, Putin's most adamant political foe, was imprisoned this year after returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recuperating from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. The Krenlin denies the accusation. He received a 2½-year prison term for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.
Commenting on Russia-U.S. ties, Putin said Russia's relations with the Biden administration have been “quite constructive” and he personally has developed “working, stable relations” with President Joe Biden.
“Mutual interests will undoubtedly lead to the normalization of our ties, and the American political establishment will stop speculating on the Russian-U.S. relations to the detriment of their own interests,” he said.
Putin added that Russian diplomats and visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland discussed possible further contacts between the two presidents following their June summit in Geneva.
In comments tweeted by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Nuland said she “very much appreciated the frank, productive review of U.S.-Russia relations” with Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, on Wednesday, adding that “we remain committed to a stable, predictable relationship.”
The Kremlin hasn't yet said whether Putin would travel to Rome to attend the Group of 20 summit later this month, which Biden is set to attend.
Asked about Russia's efforts to develop new weapons, Putin said they came as a response to Washington's 2002 decision to withdraw from a Cold War-era treaty that banned defenses against ballistic missiles. He said the move threatened to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.
He noted that “an arms race is ongoing,” but added that Russia was ready to discuss its new weapons at arms control talks with the U.S.