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Thursday, January 28, 2021

January 28, 2021
Vladimir Putin watches a session of the virtual Davos summit today where he warned that the world risks sliding deeper into instability as the coronavirus pandemic combines with global rivalries and other international tensions

(DailyMail) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned today that the 'end of civilization' is possible due to a combination of coronavirus, global rivalries and worsening international tensions.

Speaking by video link during a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Putin pointed at growing inequality and unemployment and a rise of populism as potential triggers for new conflicts that he said could plunge the world into a 'dark anti-Utopia.'

'The pandemic has exacerbated the problems and disbalances that have been accumulating,' the Russian leader said. 'International institutions are weakening, regional conflicts are multiplying and the global security is degrading.'

Putin hailed the decision by Russia and the United States to extend their last nuclear arms control pact as a positive move, but he added that spiraling tensions have come to resemble the situation before World War II.

'I strongly hope that such 'hot' global conflict is impossible now. It would mean the end of civilization,' he said. 'But the situation may become unpredictable and spin out of control.

'There is a real danger that we will face a downturn in global development fraught with an all-out fight, attempts to solve contradictions by searching for internal and foreign enemies, and the destruction of basic traditional values.'

Putin attributed the worsening economic situation to a Western liberal economic model that he said 'foments social, racial and ethnic intolerance with tensions erupting even in countries with seemingly long-established civil and democratic institutions.'

The Russian leader pointed to what he described as the negative role of technology companies that run top social networks, charging that they have abused their position and tried to 'control the society, replace legitimate democratic institutions and usurp an individual's right to decide how to live and what views to express.'

He added that tech companies were 'not just economic giants... in some areas they are already de facto competing with the state'.

'We have seen it all in the United States,' Putin said, referring to the Capitol riot incited by Donald Trump which led to the then-president being banned from Twitter - a move which has caused disquiet in several European countries.

Putin's comments come as Russia ramps up pressure on the activities of foreign tech giants, which are not subject to the same state censorship as most media outlets.

Moscow earlier this week accused US tech platforms of interfering in Russia's internal affairs during the anti-government protests egged on by the arrested Alexei Navalny - who is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence.

Ahead of the Navalny rallies, Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered several online platforms, including YouTube and Instagram, to delete posts by users calling for protesters to attend demonstrations.

But Russia angrily accused Facebook and other US tech giants of failing to remove what it called fake information about the demonstrations at the weekend.

Putin also claimed in the virtual Davos Summit that there has been 'increasingly aggressive pressure on those countries that disagree with a role of obedient satellites, the use of trade barriers, illegitimate sanctions, restrictions in the financial, technological and information spheres.'

Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, Russia's meddling in the U.S. elections and recently, the poisoning and the subsequent arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

'The era marked by attempts to create a centralized unipolar global order is over now,' Putin said in an apparent reference to the perceived global domination of the U.S.

Putin has been under pressure in recent months amid high-profile leaks of information about his health and private life, now compounded by the return to Russia of arch-rival Navalny.

The charismatic 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner had been in Germany recovering from what western governments said was an attempted assassination using Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent.

Navalny accuses Putin of ordering his death at the hands of an FSB hit-squad. Russian denies the allegations.

Upon arrival back in Russia, Navalny was immediately arrested by Russia's prison service and marched into a trial, where a judge ordered him to be detained for 30 days on suspicion of violating the terms of an early suspended sentence.

Navalny is then due to face a second trial on those charges, where he could be jailed for another three-and-a-half years.

As he was marched off to jail, Navalny used social media to call for mass protests across the country which took place at the weekend.

Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took part in demonstrations across 70 cities on Saturday in a show of defiance against Putin.

His wife Yulia Navalnaya, 44, was among around 3,400 people detained by officers. She posted a selfie following her arrest, captioned: 'Apologies for the poor quality. Very bad light in the police van.'

Demonstrators were dragged off by riot officers to police buses and detention trucks, while some activists were beaten with police batons.

The violent scenes from police drew condemnation from both the United States and the European Union, whose foreign policy chief said he deplored the 'widespread arrests' and the 'disproportionate use of force'.

Similarly, the United States called on Russian authorities to release protesters and journalists detained, and condemned what it called 'harsh tactics' used against them.

Throughout the day and into the early hours of Sunday morning, people were seen holding signs that read 'Russia will be free' and chanting 'Putin is a thief.'

Some then marched towards the Kremlin, while others blocked Tverskaya Street, the capital's main thoroughfare.

Reuters reporters estimated at least 40,000 people had gathered in central Moscow for one of the biggest unauthorised rallies for years, but authorities claimed a mere 4,000 people had shown up.

'The United States strongly condemns the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities throughout Russia,' State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a post on Twitter that he deplored the authorities 'disproportionate use of force', while Britain's foreign minister, Dominic Raab, condemned the 'use of violence against peaceful protesters and journalists'.

Navalny being taken into custody and the arrests of his supporters were 'troubling indications of further restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms,' he added.


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