MOSCOW — One Russian city wants to send a message to Americans protesting the election of Donald Trump: Well, we like him.
The city of Obninsk was granted a permit for a rally Saturday in favor of the U.S. president-elect — another sign of Trump’s embrace in a country whose relations with the Obama administration soured badly over rifts such as Syria and Ukraine.
The demonstration was organized by Artyom Mainas, a 27-year-old blogger in Obninsk, a nuclear-research center some 60 miles south of Moscow. He said he decided to act after seeing news from the United States about demonstrations in the wake of Trump’s election.
“I thought, well, it would be good if we can organize something here in Russia to demonstrate our support to the newly-elected president,” Mainas said by telephone Friday. “We think that Trump is a good candidate for Russia.”
Russians have greeted the election of Trump as a victory, in part because of the Republican’s support for Putin and calls for better ties with Russia during the campaign. On Friday, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Trump and Putin see “eye-to-eye politically,” according to the TASS news agency.
Throughout the campaign, Russian officials and state media constantly warned that a Hillary Clinton presidency could erode already poor U.S.-Russia relations . Meanwhile, Moscow has conducted nationwide civil defense drills.
The U.S. administration accused Russia of interfering on Trump’s behalf, including hacks of emails from top members of Clinton’s campaign team. Earlier this week, President Obama warned his successor not to embrace Putin too readily.
Putin also sounded a bellicose note Friday, saying Russia is working to develop new weapons to “ensure a strategic balance.”
The Russian leader, wrapping up a week-long series of talks with his senior commanders on Moscow’s plans to modernize its military, said that Russia is developing state-of-the art weapons that draw on laser, hypersonic and robotic technologies.
“We are giving special attention to the development of weapons based on new physical principles that allow selective, pinpoint impact on critically important elements of enemy weapons and infrastructure,” Putin said at the meeting, broadcast on Russian television from the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Russian military officials have recently described developing warheads for ballistic missiles that would be invisible to antimissile defenses, or capable of evading them. Russia has protested NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense system, and Putin on Friday appeared to lodge a response to the U.S. development of Prompt Global Strike, a weapons systems that would allow the U.S. to deliver a strike anywhere in the world within an hour.
“We will do all necessary to ensure a strategic balance,” Putin added. “Our task is to efficiently neutralize any military threats to Russia, including those created by strategic missile defenses, the implementation of the concept of global strike, and information wars.”
The Kremlin believes that the Obama administration is waging a propaganda war to isolate Russia, and a top Putin aide accused the White House on Thursday of “doing everything it can to drive bilateral ties into such a deadlock” that it would be difficult for a new team to improve relations.
The aide, Yuri Ushakov, said Trump supported Putin’s call for normalizing ties, and “expressed his readiness not only to normalize ties, but also develop them intensively in all areas.”
Mainas, the blogger who organized the pro-Trump demonstration scheduled for Saturday, said his idea has attracted more support than he expected when he applied for a permit for a rally of 40 people.
“I’ve gotten so many calls already and people are coming in from other cities, so I think there might be more,” he said. “We hope that Russia-U.S. relations will improve under Trump and so we have to express our support.”
Natalya Abbakumova contributed to this report.