Russia Views Bernie Sanders As ‘Soft Pro-Putinist’ Over Anti-Sanctions Vote, Ex-Adviser To Vladimir Putin Says

Inside the Russian political establishment, current Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders is seen as “a soft pro-Putinist,” according to Gleb Pavlovsky, a former adviser to Vladimir Putin. He was quoted in a new report by Russia expert Julia Ioffe in GQ Magazine.

The Russian support is largely due to Sanders’ 2012 vote against a crucial sanctions law known as the Magnitsky Act, a law despised inside the Kremlin, according to Ioffe’s findings.

Earlier this week, a Washington Post report revealed that Russia has already begun intervening in the 2020 U.S. election process, this time boosting the candidacy of Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders acknowledged that he had received an intelligence briefing approximately one month ago, informing him that Russia was attempting to boost his campaign. Sanders said nothing publicly until the Washington Post story appeared on Friday.

Russia’s interference in support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign has been confirmed by multiple investigations, including by special counsel Robert Mueller. Though Sanders may appear to lie on the opposite end of the spectrum from Trump in terms of his political agenda, Russian insiders and experts quoted by Ioffe say that Putin also has reasons for interfering in the U.S. election on the self-described socialist senator’s behalf as well.

Donald Trump remains Russia’s favorite candidate, according to a new investigative report.

“If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, then Trump wins the White House,” Igor Yurgens, a one-time adviser to former President Dmitry Medvedev, told Ioffe. “America won’t vote for such a leftie candidate.”

Former Putin adviser Pavlovsky saw another reason for his ex-boss to back Sanders, as well, calling the Nevada caucus winner “a soft pro-Putinist,” at least, he said, that is Sanders’ reputation inside Russian political circles.

In 2012, the independent Sanders voted with 43 Republicans in the Senate — but only three Democrats — to oppose the Magnitsky Act. Pavlovsky cited that vote for the generally favorable view of Sanders held by the Kremlin.

Named after Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who mysteriously died in a Russian prison after exposing a massive Kremlin-linked $230 million tax fraud operation, the act levies strict economic sanctions not against Russia as a country, but against individual Russian officials and oligarchs found to have taken part in, or enabled human rights abuses, according to a Washington Post report.

Because the Magnitsky Act freezes bank accounts held by those individuals, and restricts their travel to the U.S., among other sanctions, Putin has made it a top priority of overturning the law.

Sanders has never publicly explained his vote against the Magnitsky Act.

The primary reason Russia appears to support Sanders, according to experts quoted in Ioffe’s report, remains that in their view, he makes a Trump victory more likely.

“Our favorite is Trump,” Yurgens said in the GQ article. “The mainstream and the media support him and will do anything that helps Trump win, including supporting Sanders.”

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