File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, Crimea March 18, 2020. (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the US anti-racism protests were a sign of deep crises in the country, in his first comments on the situation.
"What has happened is a sign of some deep-seated internal crises," Putin said in an interview with Rossiya 1 television, asked to comment on events in the US in the recent days.
He linked the unrest to the coronavirus pandemic, saying: "It shows there are problems. Things connected to the fight with the coronavirus have shone a spotlight on general problems."
The Russian television channel has posted an extract from the interview, to be broadcast in full Sunday evening, billed as Putin's first interview since the start of the pandemic.
He contrasted the virus situation in the US and Russia, saying that while "we are exiting the coronavirus situation steadily with minimal losses, God willing, in the States it isn't happening that way."
Russia on Sunday confirmed 8,835 new virus cases, taking its total to 528,964, the third highest in the world, while the US has the largest number of cases by far at 2.07 million.
Putin criticised a lack of strong leadership on the virus situation in the US, saying that "the president says we need to do such-and-such but the governor somewhere tells him where to go."
"I think the problem is that group interests, party interests are put higher than the interests of the whole of society and the interests of the people."
In Russia, "I doubt anyone in the government or the regions would say 'we're not going to do what the government says, what the president says, we think it's wrong,'" Putin said of the virus strategy.