Friday, December 4, 2020

Putin won’t congratulate Biden until ‘legal procedures’ are settled

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will not congratulate Joe Biden until the U.S. election results are finalized, the Kremlin’s top spokesman said Monday.

“Anticipating your possible question about Putin congratulating the U.S. president-elect, I want to say the following: we consider it correct to wait for the official summing up of the results of the elections,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Interfax, the Russian news agency.

Russia has sought to amplify President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud, with the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, emphasizing that she has prohibited all voting by mail because of the risks of cheating.

In an interview with Tass news agency, Pamfilova said the U.S. election had shown that mail-in voting “opens immense scope for possible falsifications” and insisted that this is why she has banned the practice despite Russian law allowing for it. (She did not mention Russia’s notoriously unreliable postal service.)

Elections in Russia are hardly recognized as free or fair, with Putin repeatedly running against a familiar cast of Kremlin-approved opposition figures, while also making changes to the Russian constitution allowing him to extend his rule.

Putin also quickly recognized this year’s presidential election results in Belarus, widely disputed as fraudulent, and issued congratulations to Alexander Lukashenko. Demonstrators in Belarus have been protesting those results for three months now.

In his comments on Monday, Peskov cited “certain legal procedures” as the basis for Putin withholding his congratulations from Biden, unlike in 2016 when the Russian leader swiftly sent good wishes to Trump after his victory over Hillary Clinton.

“The difference is quite obvious,” Peskov said, according to Interfax. “You see that there are certain legal procedures ahead, which were announced by the incumbent president. This is the difference. Therefore, we consider it correct to wait for the official announcement.”

He added: “There are no official results yet.”

But Peskov did reiterate Russia’s desire to work with the U.S. leadership. “I want to remind you that President Putin has repeatedly said that he will show respect for any choice of the American people, and that he will be ready to work with any president-elect of the United States,” he said.

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