Media

ABC reporter asks Putin about dead, jailed opponents: 'What are you so afraid of?'

An ABC News reporter went viral on social media Wednesday for confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin on his "long" list of "political opponents who are dead, imprisoned, or jailed," asking what the Russian leader was "so afraid of."

ABC congressional correspondent Rachel Scott questioned Putin during his solo news briefing in Switzerland following his summit with President Biden. Scott noted Biden's vow to respond to cyberattacks from Russia if they do not stop before pressing Putin on his political opposition.

"The list of your political opponents who are dead, prisoned or jailed is long," she told Putin, adding that opposition leader Alexei Navalny's anti-corruption organization has called for "free and fair elections and an end to corruption, but Russia has outlawed that organization, calling it 'extremist,' and you have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office." 

"So, my question is, Mr. President: what are you so afraid of?" Scott asked. 

Putin responded by instead bringing attention to a U.S. policy that would "particularly favor individual organizations in Russia, and at the same time, they declared the Russian Federation as an 'enemy,'" according to an interpreter. 

"You didn't answer my question, sir," Scott responded. "If all of your political opponents are dead, in prison, poisoned, doesn't that send a message that you do not want a fair political fight?"

The Russian leader once again sidestepped the question, instead bringing up the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Putin said that following the mob attack, "many people were declared as criminals and they are threatened with imprisonment from 20 to 25 years, and these people were immediately arrested after those events." 

"Many countries are going through exactly what we're going through," Putin continued. "Let me just repeat: We sympathize with what was happening in the States, but we do not wish that to happen in Russia."

Biden responded to these remarks in his separate press conference later in the day, saying it was "ridiculous" to compare Russia's crackdown on opposition leaders and U.S. authorities' legal action against alleged participants in the Capitol riot.

"It's one thing for, literally, criminals to break through... go into the Capitol, kill a police officer, and be held unaccountable, then it is for people... marching on a Capitol and saying, 'You are not allowing me to speak freely,'" the president added.

The separate press conferences came after roughly three hours of talks between the two leaders.

Putin described the conversations Wednesday as "constructive," adding there was no hostility between the two sides. 

Reporters on Wednesday also brought up comments from Biden in a March ABC interview when he said he believed Putin was a "killer." 

Putin responded to these questions by saying that he and Biden did not need a deep personal connection to represent their own national interests. 

"He's very balanced. He's very constructive. He's very experienced. You can tell that at first glance," Putin said of Biden. 

The Russian leader was asked by NBC reporter Keir Simmons last week if he was a "killer," to which Putin responded by laughing and saying, "Over my tenure, I've gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and at different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me."

After Simmons continued to press Putin for an explicit answer, he replied, "Sentiments in terms of who calls someone what kind of labels, this is not something I worry about in the least."

--Updated at 2:04 p.m.

Outbrain