Wow. Here’s a bit of the shoe on the other foot.

On Monday I told you about another challenger to Vladimir Putin’s presidency, and this one, by most accounts, is a legitimate threat to his position.

That’s why he needed to be stopped.

Alexei Navalny is an anti-corruption activist who has challenged Putin, but saw his campaign shut down by Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC). They deemed him ineligible to run because of an earlier conviction in a fraud case.

That case is considered nothing more than a political setup, in order to disqualify Navalny from running, and it apparently worked.

The U.S. State Department has taken notice.

In a statement shared with Business Insider on Tuesday night, a State Department spokesperson expressed concern over the Russian government’s “ongoing crackdown against independent voices, from journalists to civil society activists and opposition politicians.”

“These actions indicate the Russian government has failed to protect space in Russia for the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the statement said. “More broadly, we urge the government of Russia to hold genuine elections that are transparent, fair, and free and that guarantee the free expression of the will of the people, consistent with its international human rights obligations.”

I mean, it’s just a statement. It’s not an American troll farm cranking out thousands of pro-Navalny ads and messages on social media, or hacked Putin emails.

That doesn’t seem to matter. It certainly didn’t stop Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova from accusing the U.S. of “direct interference” in their electoral process, by virtue of that statement.

“This State Department statement, which I’m sure will be repeated, is a direct interference in our electoral process and internal affairs,” Zakharova wrote Tuesday on Facebook.

I wouldn’t go that far. I think she’s just jumping at any thread.

And she really did jump hard.

Zakharova pushed back. “And these people expressed outrage over alleged Russian ‘interference’ in their electoral process for an entire year?!” she said.

“The funniest thing is that these are the same people who just tagged RT and Sputnik as foreign agents, who are harassing Russian media around the world and who are investing huge amounts of money into ‘countering Russian propaganda,’ which is how they label anyone who they disagree with,” she wrote.

I think that’s an oversimplification.

Sputnik and RT were named by U.S. intelligence as key players who openly promoted Donald Trump during the 2016 election process. In November of this year the U.S. affiliates of Sputnik and RT were registered as foreign agents with the Justice Department.

declassified US intelligence assessment of the 2016 election determined that Russian government actors, ordered by Putin, used “cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion” and “undermine public faith in the US democratic process.”

I don’t think a single Justice Department statement rises to that level of interference.

Navalny, who is a lawyer and an activist came to his position as the head of Russia’s democratic opposition movement after the former leader, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

A previous embezzlement charge is preventing him from being put on the ballot – a ballot he claims is currently stocked with opponents that were handpicked by Putin, and who have no chance of winning.

Navalny has known since February — when he was handed a suspended five-year jail term for embezzlement in a case and his supporters have characterized as politically motivated — that he would not be allowed on the ballot. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) determined in October that the conviction was “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”

The head of the CEC, Ella Pamfilova, has further accused Navalny of illegal fundraising and “brainwashing” young people.

The election is in March, but the outcome seems to be pre-determined.

This sudden accusation of the U.S. tampering in their election, on any level, is just another act to the show.