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Russian media mocks Trump over arrest days after he defended Putin: ‘We’re getting lots of popcorn!’

State TV hosts joke ‘Donald Fredovych’ could be granted asylum in Rostov-on-Don

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 06 April 2023 07:47 BST
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Trump lashes out at prosecutor and judge during first speech after indictment

Donald Trump’s indictment in New York City has been met with ridicule by state TV in Russia, where hosts have enjoyed themselves by showcasing artwork depicting the former president wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and speculating about future jail time.

Mr Trump appeared at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon to plead not guilty to 34 felony charges relating to the falsification of business records to conceal a series of hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, Playboy model Karen McDougal and a former Trump Tower doorman on his behalf in exchange for their silence about his alleged extramarital affairs.

The former president was fingerprinted but not handcuffed or photographed for a mugshot on Tuesday and said little in court before returning to his safe space of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, and delivering a scathing press conference in which he insisted he was the victim of a “fake investigation” from a justice system “weaponised” against him by his political enemies, attacked New York County district attorney Alvin Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan and assured his audience: “Our country is going to hell.”

None enjoyed Mr Trump’s undignified return to the international spotlight more than the Russians, according to Daily Beast columnist Julia Davis, a seasoned Russia-watcher, who noted that the Kremlin feels let down by the 45th US president’s chaotic single term in office but has been encouraged since by his attitude towards the Ukraine war.

Mr Trump has backed calls urging Kyiv to surrender disputed territory for the sake of peace and pledged to end costly American military aid to the country.

But that did not stop the teasing.

During Tuesday night’s edition of Russia-1’s 60 Minutes, host Olga Skabeyeva joked: “Trump may soon be outfitted in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed. We’re getting lots of popcorn and waiting!”

Guest Andrey Kartapolov, chairman of Russia’s Defence Committee, meanwhile suggested that “poor, poor Trump” might have been ensnared in a honey trap sting operation with Ms Daniels orchestrated by Democrats, overlooking the fact that their alleged affair is thought to have taken place in 2006, when Mr Trump was a reality TV star rather than an aspiring politician.

On Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov on the same channel two nights earlier, the eponymous host responded to District Attorney Bragg’s initial announcement of the indictment by speculating on whether the scandal would actually help rather than hinder Mr Trump’s presidential run in 2024, also enjoying the thought of him perched behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office in prison garb.

Mr Solovyov further joked about Mr Trump being offered asylum in Russia.

“Should we afford the opportunity for Donald Trump to escape the unfair political persecution in Russia?,” he asked.

He went on to suggest that “Donald Fredovych” – giving the former president a Russian-style patronymic – could be given an apartment in Rostov-on-Don that was previously occupied by ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

“First, one has to earn the spot in Rostov-on-Don... I am quite disappointed with Donald,” responded Andrey Sidorov, deputy dean of world politics at Moscow State University. “He disappointed me back on 6 January 2021.”

Another guest, Dmitry Mikheyev, once a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who has since returned to Russia, spoke of a “deep civilisational divide” in polarised America and predicted that Mr Trump’s arrest would exacerbate it.

“This is a serious conflict that is almost of a religious nature,” chimed in the show’s co-host Sergey Mardan. “And we’re certainly glad! If everything is bad in America it will impact us, but the enemy has to be destroyed!”

Interestingly, Mr Solovyov also felt that the indictment would boost public support for Mr Trump and suggested that Florida governor Ron DeSantis (whom the panellists nicknamed “No 2”) might now be invited to be the former president’s running mate to avoid a rivalry, adding the caveat: “Unless the United States falls apart before then.”

Mr Trump may be annoyed to find that he is being made the subject of mockery in Moscow, especially given that he has spoken out in defence of Vladimir Putin’s country so recently.

Responding to derisive remarks made by Mr DeSantis in a video posted to Truth Social last week, Mr Trump said: “Calling Russia a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons, or calling Putin, quote, ‘an authoritarian gas station attendant with some legacy of nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union’ is exactly the kind of simple-minded thinking that has produced decades of failed diplomacy and ultimately war.

“And where is that war going? Those such as Mitt Romney and Ron DeSantis, very much alike, who insist on arrogantly treating Russia as deeply inferior to the other nations of the world with no history or culture or pride, are not only ignorant and foolish, but their attitude makes it impossible to negotiate peace. Absolutely impossible.”

Mr Trump went on to claim his administration had a more nuanced understanding of Russia, its people and its history and that such “neo-con rhetoric” implying that Mr Putin “must be tried and presumably executed as a war criminal, only increases the chances of nuclear escalation” and betrayed a “lack of sophistication on the subtleties and complexities of foreign policy”.

He continued: “This is not the time for on-the-job training as we face the possibility of nuclear war. And our leaders, if you call them that, got us there. This is where we are. The word nuclear was never even mentioned during the Trump administration. Now it’s being mentioned every hour of every day.”

Mr Trump said the US needed a “peacemaker” in the White House, “not someone who recites mindless and recycled talking points to win the approval of the failed foreign policy establishment that didn’t know what they were doing.”

He added: “In 2024, I am the only candidate who can prevent World War III. I will prevent World War III. There’s nobody else that’s going to do that.”

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