Capitol insurrectionist stars on Russian state TV before Biden-Putin summit

Richard Barnett introduced as a ‘colourful character’ by Russia’s network ahead of Geneva

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 15 June 2021 15:39
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Capitol rioter says 'police on our side' during Washington DC siege

A Capitol rioter who was pictured with his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk has debuted on Russian state TV just days before Joe Biden’s meeting with Vladimir Putin.

On Sunday, alleged rioter Richard Barnett and his attorney Joseph McBride both appeared on VGTRK, a Russian state-owned TV network, according to video of the interview.

Mr Barnett, of Arkansas, was infamously pictured with his feet on the desk of House Speaker Pelosi during the 6 January riot, and was released from jail in April ahead of trial.

According to The Daily Beast, the Russian TV network introduced him as a “colourful” individual who was among hundreds arrested for assaulting the US Capitol because following a “stolen [US] election”.

The attorney, Mr McBride, invited Russian correspondent Valentin Bogdanov into his Arkansas office for the interview, from where Mr Barnett appeared on FaceTime.

Mr Bogdanov reportedly told viewers that the accused was an “American patriot” who rioted on the US Capitol and put his feet on the House Speaker’s desk.

He also went on to complain of US jail conditions and his treatment in a detention centre — apparently unaware of Russia’s record for incarceration.

“The trial is still ahead, there is no verdict, but retribution is already taking place,” Mr Bogdanov, then added, asking Mr Barnett: “Would you do it again?”

As reported by The Daily Beast, Mr McBride had to interject before Mr Barnett could answer, citing the trial ahead for the Arkansas man.

The interview, which was thought to be the first appearance by Mr Barnett on Russian TV, came ahead of a US-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

On Monday, Mr Biden referred to the Russian president as a “worthy adversary”, amid criticism from some quarters for meeting Mr Putin at a time of historically low relations between the US and Russia.

“It’s not about trusting, it’s about agreeing,” said Mr Biden. “When you write treaties with adversaries, you don’t say, ‘I trust you.’ You say, ‘This is what I expect.’”

Mr Putin, in an interview with NBC News on Monday, argued that the Capitol rioters had “political demands” and were not on par with “dissent[ers]” in his own country, who are frequently thrown in jail.

“You are presenting it as dissent and intolerance toward dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently,” said the Russian president. “Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress?...They came there with political demands”.

Russia has been blamed on recent hacking attempts and ransomware attacks against the US, and is under fire for its imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his supporters.

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