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in-focus

Putin responds to Biden's comments that he's a killer: 'I wish him good health'


MOSCOW - Responding to President Joe Biden's comments that he thinks Russia's president is a killer, Vladimir Putin suggested Thursday that the U.S. leader is projecting his own flaws and wished his American counterpart "good health."

"I say that without irony and not as a joke," Putin said.

Biden's remarks in an ABC News interview broadcast Wednesday prompted the Kremlin to summon its ambassador to the United States back to Moscow to discuss how to proceed with the "very bad" relations between the two countries.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also seemed to imply that they could get worse, warning Thursday that Russia's response to Biden's remarks will be "absolutely clear." He didn't elaborate.

"It's clear that [Biden] doesn't want to normalize relations with our country. This is what we'll be guided by from now on," Peskov said.

The Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in August. Navalny has said Putin is responsible for nearly killing him; the Kremlin has denied it has any connection to the toxic attack. After recovering in Germany for five months, Navalny returned to Russia in January and was immediately jailed.

When asked by ABC News if he believes Putin is a killer, Biden answered, "I do." Biden also described Putin as having no soul, adding that he would "pay a price" for allegedly meddling in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, something the Kremlin denies.

Moscow then took the unusual move of temporarily recalling its ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, in what's believed to be the first such instance in more than 20 years.

Antonov is leaving Washington for Moscow on Saturday, the Russian embassy said, adding that his trip is "to discuss ways to rectify Russia-U.S. ties that are in crisis."

"The current situation is a result of the deliberate policy of Washington that during the past years was making steps to bring - in essence, intentionally - our bilateral interaction into a deadlock," the embassy said in a statement.

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, declined to comment when asked if diplomatic relations between the countries could be severed entirely.

In his first comments on Biden's interview, Putin responded Thursday with a Russian schoolyard expression suggesting that Biden's accusations revealed more about him than the Russian president. The phrase can be roughly translated as, "I know you are, but what am I?"

Speaking on a video call with residents of Crimea marking the anniversary of its 2014 annexation from Ukraine, Putin pointed to the United States' history of killing Native Americans and slavery.

"Each nation and every state has very hard, dramatic, and bloody events in their history. But when we assess other people or even when we assess other states and other nations, we always sort of look in the mirror, and we always see ourselves there. Because we always attribute to other people that which we breathe ourselves and what we essentially are," Putin said.

Russian government officials have reacted angrily to Biden's remarks. Konstantin Kosachev, a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament's upper house, said in a Facebook post that Biden's "gross statement sends any expectations for the new U.S. administration's policy toward Russia down the drain."

"Recalling the Russian ambassador from Washington to Moscow for consultations is a prompt and adequate reaction, the only correct one in this situation. I suspect that it won't be the last one if the American side doesn't offer explanations and apologies," he added.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian state television on Thursday that Moscow expects an explanation for Biden's comments.

"Why do we always have to translate their strange, unintelligible political gibberish into normal speech?" she said.

Published : March 19, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Isabelle Khurshudyan