High-ranking Russian politicians have suggested an “archaic” United States electoral system that does not meet democratic standards, and the politicisation of the media, were to blame for the unrest in Washington, DC and divisions in the country.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump a day earlier was “an internal US affair”, but that the country’s political set-up was to blame.
“The electoral system in the United States is archaic, it does not meet modern democratic standards, creating opportunities for numerous violations, and the American media have become an instrument of political struggle,” Zakharova told Russian news agencies.
“This is largely the reason for the split in society now observed in the United States.”
Under headlines such as “Storm of the Capitol” and “Chaos in Washington”, Russian state television showed rolling images of mobs of Trump supporters breaking down barricades and swarming the Congress building, as security forces fired tear gas and police drew guns inside.
The US Congress formally certified President-elect Joe Biden despite the riot, but many in Moscow said the stunning events had exposed the country’s democratic failings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin himself on November 22 said there were “problems in the US electoral system” following the US presidential vote, which Trump has repeatedly and baselessly alleged was rigged.
Moscow has long bristled at US criticism of the state of Russian democracy under Putin, accusing Washington of hypocrisy and condescension.
“This [election process in the US] certainly gives no one the right to point the finger at the flaws in other political systems, including in election legislation,” Putin said.
The Kremlin has itself been accused of fostering division in the US with a campaign of interference and disinformation, including alleged attempts to disrupt the 2016 election in Trump’s favour that prompted an FBI investigation.
Meanwhile, commenting on the Capitol riots, Konstantin Kosachyov, the chair of the Russian upper house’s foreign affairs committee, said in a post on Facebook on Thursday: “The losing side has more than enough grounds to accuse the winner of falsifications – it is clear that American democracy is limping on both feet.
“The celebration of democracy has ended. It has, unfortunately, hit rock bottom, and I say this without a hint of gloating.
“America no longer charts the course and so has lost all right to set it. And, even more so, to impose it on others.”
Leonid Slutsky, the foreign affairs chief in the lower house, said the US “cannot now impose electoral standards on other countries and claim to be the world’s ‘beacon of democracy'”.
He told Russian news agencies Washington was suffering after having promoted “colour revolutions” around the world, like anti-Moscow uprisings in Ukraine and Georgia and the recent protests in Belarus.
“The boomerang of the colour revolutions is turning back on the United States,” Slutsky said. “All this threatens to turn into a crisis in the American system of power.”
Anton Gorelkin, a legislator on the lower house telecommunications committee, praised Twitter and Facebook for suspending Trump’s accounts, a move he said highlighted the need for social media companies to control harmful content.
“Social networks must work under strict rules within a legal framework. Because absolute freedom of information is becoming a weapon in the hands of extremists,” he posted on his Telegram channel.
The US and other Western countries have repeatedly condemned Russia for moves to tighten controls on social media.
But Moscow says the US cynically uses such claims to pursue its agenda and maintain its global position.
Tensions between the Cold War-era rivals have hit new highs in recent years, with US sanctions imposed on Russian officials, disputes over arms control treaties and American accusations of major Russian hacking attacks.