Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has “every right” to succeed his ailing father into power, says Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, warning the United States against interfering with the embattled prince’s right to rule the kingdom.
Bogdanov, who is also President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East, said Tuesday it was up to Riyadh to decide what was next for bin Salman when King Salman, 82, dies.
“Of course we are against interference. The Saudi people and leadership must decide such questions themselves,” Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview in Moscow, according to Bloomberg.
Bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler last year in an untraditional manner, replacing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the late Saudi king’s son.
Wary of getting bogged down in a power struggle, bin Salman soon launched a widespread crackdown against other royals to cement his grip on power.
However, his actions went mostly unanswered until October this year, when Riyadh admitted to murdering dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The crown prince has also faced worldwide criticism for leading the ongoing deadly war against Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians.
US President Donald Trump’s reluctance to hold the crown prince responsible for his actions has prompted angry bipartisan calls in Washington to remove MbS from power.
Prominent senators have publicly blasted the crown prince, with Lindsey Graham, Trump’s staunch ally, calling him “crazy” and “dangerous.”
Bogdanov said Tuesday that Americans were in no positions to make such calls.
“The king made a decision and I can’t even imagine on what grounds someone in America will interfere in such an issue and think about who should rule Saudi Arabia, now or in the future. This is a Saudi matter.”
Russia and Saudi Arabia have established increasingly close ties since bin Salman’s appointment. Despite receiving cold shoulders from most world leaders during the G20 summit in Argentina last month, Putin and bin Salman were seen greeting each other with broad smiles and a high five handshake.
The Russian head of state is scheduled to visit Riyadh in 2019.
Some US officials have indicated that they would support bin Salman’s uncle, Prince Ahmed, as the next Saudi king, Reuters reported last month, citing unnamed sources.
Asked whether Prince Mohammed had the right to the throne after his father, Bogdanov said: “Of course. It’s all been decided, it’s all absolutely clear. We are in contact with the Saudis and we don’t see any particular concerns about this.”