MOSCOW — Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin said Friday that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan showed it was time for the West to end its “irresponsible policy of imposing one’s external values from abroad.”
Still, Mr Putin pledged to work with the West to “normalize the situation in Afghanistan” and to “build good neighborly relations” with the country.
“We know Afghanistan, we know it well,” Mr Putin said, referring to the Soviet Union’s disastrous war there in the 1980s. “We’ve seen how this country is built and how counterproductive it is to try to impose unnatural governance and public life on it.”
His comments came at his latest press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will leave office after September’s national elections. Ms Merkel, who speaks Russian and is Putin’s closest confidant among Western leaders, noted that in her 16 years in office, Russia’s and Germany’s political systems “had drifted further apart.”
She paid a farewell visit to the Kremlin on Friday and, after a three-hour meeting with Mr Putin, insisted that “communication channels must remain open” despite political differences.
But Mr Putin — just one year after the near-fatal poisoning of his most prominent domestic critic, Aleksei A. Navalny — made it clear that he had little interest in Ms Merkel’s views on Russia’s internal affairs.
“Russia has already reached its limit for revolutions in the 20th century,” Putin said, rejecting Ms Merkel’s call to free Mr Navalny. “We don’t want any more revolutions.”
In Moscow, Friday’s events showed Mr Putin’s determination to crack down on the Russians’ remaining political freedoms while he maintained his conflict with the West.
The Kremlin has fought back against growing discontent at home by claiming that opposition figures like Navalny are in fact Western agents seeking to undermine Russia.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a 1,700-word statement this week blaming Germany for helping orchestrate “the hype surrounding Navalny” to “carry out more attacks on us in the forums of various international organizations as part of of a strategy of total containment of our country.”
Independent media in Russia are also under fire, and another blow came on Friday when the Justice Department added TV Rain, Russia’s best-known independent television news channel, and iStories, an investigative news channel, to its list of “foreign agents.”
The designation — a label claiming the organization is acting on behalf of a foreign government — means that media journalists will now have to add lengthy disclaimers, even to social media posts, or face prosecution. As a result, the points of sale will probably experience an exodus of advertisers.
“It was clear that this was going to happen sooner or later,” TV Rain director Natalia Sindeyeva told another news channel that had declared a foreign agent this year, Meduza. “But that’s okay – we won’t give up so easily.”
The crackdown on the opposition and the news media is taking place in the run-up to Russia’s parliamentary elections in September. While Navalny’s move has been banned as extremist, his allies are working to organize a coordinated protest vote to elect as many candidates as possible who are not from the ruling party.
Russia’s telecom regulator said Friday it had demanded that Apple and Google remove Mr Navalny’s app from their app stores. Navalny this week urged Russians to download the app to coordinate their votes.
“Thanks again to everyone,” Mr Navalny wrote in another message published Friday, marking the anniversary of his poisoning. “I have been given a second chance to live and make the decisions that I consider correct and fair.”
Ms Merkel helped save Mr Navalny by pressuring the Kremlin to release him for treatment in Germany after falling into a coma in Siberia on August 20. human rights violations in Russia and the actions of the Kremlin in Ukraine.
But she has also been criticized for relinquishing undue influence over German business interests, such as with the nearly completed NordStream 2 gas pipeline that will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in its gas exports to Germany.
“I am very pleased that, despite major differences, we have always been able to keep these communication channels open,” said Ms Merkel. “Sometimes, I believe, we have been able to make even a small difference, but there is still a lot to do.”