Putin, who has a history of persecuting his political opponents, claimed Tuesday that the criminal prosecution of Trump was part of “the persecution of a political rival for political reasons.” He predicted that the prosecution of Trump would diminish America’s global standing, to the benefit of Russia.
“Regarding the prosecution of Trump, for us what is happening in the current conditions is in my opinion a good thing because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot claim to teach democracy to others,” Putin said at an economic forum in Moscow. eastern Russia.
These comments reflect the largely warm relations between the two leaders during Trump’s presidency, which included a summit in 2018 during which Trump refused to support the collective conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the 2016 US presidential election.
Trump has continued to assert that he and Putin are on good terms, despite Putin’s isolation by the West over his invasion of Ukraine – which Trump once called “genius” and “common sense” .
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Trump’s main Republican rivals were quick to seize on Putin’s latest remarks. In a statement, former Vice President Mike Pence said Putin’s opinion had no value in the United States.
“America’s founding principles will always stand the test of time,” Pence said. “Putin should be more concerned about how quickly his army went from being the world’s second largest to Ukraine’s. »
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of Trump’s harshest GOP critics, called Putin a “brutal, murderous KGB hitman” and said Trump needs new models.
“Be clear. Trump is being charged because of his conduct. He played with fire and got burned. And now his best friend is standing up for him,” Christie wrote on social media. job. “If you are on the same side as Putin, you may want to rethink your position. »
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a longtime Trump critic, noted that Trump and Putin use the same arguments and said Trump’s actions “comfort our enemies.” Former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney (R), who has not ruled out a presidential run if it prevents Trump from serving a second term, also lambasted Putin and pro-Trump Republicans.
“Putin has now officially endorsed the Putin wing of the Republican Party,” Cheney wrote. “Putin’s Republicans and those who support them will end up in the ashes of history. Patriotic Americans of both parties who believe in the values of liberal democracy will see to it.”
In Russia, Putin and his allies have suppressed all dissent, most recently against those who protested that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was convicted last month of “extremism” and sentenced to 19 years in a special regime penal colony, on top of an existing 11-year sentence. The special regime penal colony, the harshest in the Russian penal system, keeps prisoners in cells with lights constantly on, forbidden from speaking, and Navalny will not be allowed to receive family visits or letters for 10 years .
Russian-British human rights activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Washington Post contributor, was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison on treason and other charges for criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“This is the price of speaking out in Russia today,” Kara-Murza said in her final statement to the court.
In the United States, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has divided Republican lawmakers over whether Washington should continue supporting Ukraine’s defense efforts. Trump and some congressional Republicans have called for ending or slowing aid to Ukraine, while others, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have strongly supported Ukraine .
Shortly after making his comments in eastern Russia, Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, another autocrat widely shunned by the world community. Trump praised the North Korean dictator during his presidency, noting that Kim wrote him “beautiful letters.”
Putin and Kim visited a Russian spaceport, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, and affirmed their commitment to strengthening ties. Kim also expressed full support for Russia as it faces sanctions and isolation over its invasion of Ukraine.
“I hope we will always be united in the fight against imperialism,” Kim said.
Robyn Dixon and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.