Vladimir Putin is “a leader of the political Olympus” and does not regard the head of the opposition as a political threat, according to the Kremlin.
It is unlikely anyone could compete with the Russian President in the upcoming election, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared.
“Putin is an absolute leader in the public’s opinion, a leader of the political Olympus, with whom at this stage it is unlikely anyone could compete,” Mr Peskov said. Olympus was the mountain home of the gods in Ancient Greek mythology.
Around 1,500 protesters converged at a square adjacent to the Kremlin on Sunday, with hundreds also attending rallies in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-biggest city, in Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains, and other major centres.
The opposition leader, who has been barred from running in the election over what he says is a trumped-up prison sentence, has called on voters to boycott what he called a rigged election on 18 March.
When reporters asked whether the Kremlin considered Mr Navalny a threat, Mr Peskov replied: “No.”
He also accused the United States of attempting to influence Russia’s presidential election.
The new US sanctions report could be released as early as Monday, detailing the possibilities for expanding sanctions against Russia, including a list of oligarchs and potential restrictions on the holding of Russian government debt.
But Mr Peskov predicted it would fail to impact the vote.
Moscow and Washington remain at odds over US allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, which Russia denies.
Recent reports said Donald Trump attempted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into allegations of collusion.
It is currently unclear whether the US reports will definitely trigger new sanctions, but Mr Peskov said Russia regarded them as an unfriendly attempt to sway the election.
“We do think this is a direct and obvious attempt timed to coincide with the elections in order to influence them,” he added. “We do not agree with this and are convinced that there will be no influence.”
“The publication of this list on its own doesn’t mean anything,” said Mr Peskov. “It isn’t the start of a new sanctions wave. So we will have to analyse what will happen next.”
Opinion polls show Mr Putin is on track to be easily re-elected.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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