Without the slightest hint of irony, Russia is complaining that the United States has tried to interfere in its presidential election after the State Department criticized the Kremlin’s decision to prevent opposition leader Alexey Navalny from running against Vladimir Putin.
"This statement by the Department of State, which will surely not be the only one, is a direct interference both in the election process and in the internal affairs of our state," explained Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on her Facebook page, according to the translation published by RT.
She added, "The funniest thing about this statement is that it was made by the same people who have just labeled RT and Sputnik as foreign agents, who keep hounding Russian mass media outlets all over the world and allocate huge sums for ‘countering Russian propaganda.'"
The State Department's criticism was sparked by a decision by Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC) to bar Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, from running for president. Navalny had been convicted of embezzlement, and Russian law prevents felons from serving in the presidency, although Navalny and his supporters claim the criminal charges against Navalny were a sham cooked up by the Kremlin in order to thwart his political career. Navalny has been a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, who is running for a fourth term.
In a statement shared with Business Insider, the State Department condemned the CEC's actions as part of an "ongoing crackdown against independent voices, from journalists to civil society activists and opposition politicians." It also urged "the government of Russia 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."
Zakharova's comment about the Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik being registered as "foreign agents" refers to the fact that the network was required by the American government to label itself as such last month.