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Kremlin Says Expected U.S. Sanctions Would Interfere With Russia's Presidential Election

Jan 29, 2018
Originally published on January 29, 2018 8:23 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Kremlin is accusing Washington of trying to disrupt its upcoming presidential election. It says U.S. sanctions and a boycott campaign by opposition leader Alexei Navalny are part of Washington's plan. Navalny organized rallies in many Russian cities over the weekend to protest his exclusion from the March election. Even though the Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has nothing to fear from Navalny, police arrested Navalny and his supporters anyway, as NPR's Lucian Kim reports.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Several thousand Russians marched in more than 100 cities across the country Sunday. But the Kremlin says it isn't impressed. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the protest organizer, Alexei Navalny, is not a threat. But the authorities were forced to react to his illegal rallies - like this one in Moscow, where protesters tried to shout down police with cries of Putin is a thief.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Russian).

KIM: Activists say about 370 people were arrested across Russia. Navalny was detained and bundled into a police bus as he headed to the Moscow rally. He was released later Sunday night. In an appeal to supporters over the weekend, Navalny was as biting as ever.

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ALEXEI NAVALNY: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "How many more years will you live under these thieves, bigots and perverts," he asked. Navalny is calling on Russians to boycott the March election after his own candidacy was blocked. Putin, who has already ruled Russia for 18 years, has suggested Navalny is an American stooge. Earlier this month, Putin said several candidates weren't allowed to register for the vote, but the Americans focused only on Navalny.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Putin said that proved the U.S. prefers to see Navalny as Russia's next leader. The Kremlin says the U.S. is constantly trying to interfere in Russian domestic politics by supporting critical media or imposing sanctions on Russian companies and individuals. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.