WASHINGTON — Stunned officials from around the globe voiced a range of reactions — from deep concern and disgust to apparent satisfaction — after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting one of the final steps in the presidential election in a building that is the citadel of American democracy.
In a scene unprecedented in modern U.S. history, a crowd of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump breached a police line outside the Capitol on January 6 as Congress was confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory two weeks before his inauguration, causing chaos and the evacuation of lawmakers. The lawmakers later reconvened and confirmed the November 3 vote.
Trump has since acknowledged for the first time that Biden will be sworn in as the country’s 46th president, saying in a statement on January 7 that there will be an “orderly” transition.
For millions of people in countries that have experienced violent political upheaval, the chaotic events looked familiar: a crowd storming the national legislature, fighting with police, and roaming unobstructed in the building’s corridors.
The violence forced politicians to take cover amid gunfire that claimed the life of a woman shot after the mob broke through a barricaded door in the Capitol where police were armed on the other side.
Police said three other people died from “medical emergencies” that occurred during the mayhem and that 52 people had been arrested so far for their roles in the riot.
Western officials voiced anger and dismay that it could happen in the U.S. capital.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the images made her “angry and sad” and that Trump had to accept some of the blame. The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said the violence and chaos would please “the enemies of democracy” worldwide.
“Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter. “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
Diplomats from Russia, which has bristled at U.S. criticism of its record on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law under President Vladimir Putin, took a different tack.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said an “archaic” U.S. electoral system and the politicization of the U.S. media were to blame for the unrest in Washington.
On Facebook, Zakharova reposted a comment from a U.S. journalist who wrote, “The United States will never again be able to tell the world that we are the paragon of democracy.”
Russia’s first deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, called the images “Maidan-style,” a reference to the popular uprising that pushed Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych, from power in 2014.
Putin has falsely claimed that months of massive and mostly peaceful protests on Kyiv’s Independence Square were a U.S.-backed coup, and the term has a very negative connotation among Russian officials.
“Some of my friends ask whether someone will distribute crackers to the protesters,” Polyansky said, a mocking reference to the actions of a U.S. State Department official during the protests on the Maidan in December 2013.
His comment was retweeted by the Twitter account of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy condemned the violence but tweeted admiration for the resiliency of the U.S. system:
Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to Twitter to share the sentiments of Western officials, saying rule of law and democratic principles must be restored in Washington.
“This is important not only for the U.S., but for Ukraine and the entire democratic world as well,” he said.
The United States has been a key supporter of Ukraine as it carries out tough political and economic reforms necessary to join Western organizations and which Russia has sought to undermine.
Even right-wing Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who has backed Trump and who has yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, tweeted: “All should be very troubled by the violence taking place in Washington D.C.”
“We hope American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted and will overcome this crisis. Democracy presupposes peaceful protest, but violence and death threats –from Left or Right — are ALWAYS wrong.”
Trump had called his supporters to rally in Washington earlier in the day to protest the results of the November 3 presidential election, which he has continued to claim were rigged despite overwhelming evidence that there was no widespread fraud and the fact that courts have rejected dozens of his attempts to overturn the outcome.
Numerous foreign leaders called on Trump and members of the mob that stormed the Capitol to swiftly ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
Maas, the German foreign minister, urged the Trump supporters to “stop trampling” on democratic values. “The enemies of democracy will be pleased to see these incredible images from Washington, D.C.,” he added.
Turkey, which like Russia has been repeatedly chided by the United States for having authoritarian rule, was also quick to comment on the developments.
“We follow the events in the USA with concern and invite the parties to calmness. We believe that problems will always be solved within law and democracy,” Mustafa Sentop, the speaker of Turkey’s parliament, said on Twitter.
The EU’s foreign policy chief condemned what he called an “assault on U.S. democracy.”
“In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege,” Josep Borrell tweeted. “This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected.”
Trump eventually issued a restrained call for peace well after the riot was under way, but did not immediately ask his supporters to disperse.
Later, he urged them to go home but did not condemn the violence, called them “very special people,” and reiterated his false claim that he won the election.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada, a neighbor and close U.S. ally, was “deeply disturbed and saddened” by the events in Washington.
“Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld — and it will be,” Trudeau tweeted.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush called the violence an “insurrection,” saying, “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic.”