From left, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden COURTESY
President Joe Biden said he agrees with the assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a ‘killer.’
In an interview with ABC News broadcast on Wednesday, Biden said Putin would ‘pay a price for trying to undermine his candidacy in the US 2020 election as alleged in a new US intelligence report.
Asked if he thought Putin, who is accused of being ruthless with his opponents, is ‘a killer,’ Biden said, ‘I do.’
The statement marked a stark contrast with predecessor Donald Trump’s steadfast refusal to say anything negative about the Russian president.
Biden said he had spoken to Putin in January after taking office. ‘We had a long talk, he and I, I know him relatively well,’ Biden said.
‘The conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared,’ Biden said.
He did not specify if he meant Russia interfering in the US election or other behavior to which the US objects, such as the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
Russia reacted furiously to Biden’s comments on Putin being a killer.
‘Biden insulted the citizens of our country with his statement,’ the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, wrote on his Telegram channel, adding that attacks on Putin are ‘attacks on our country.’
‘Absolutely no foundation and evidence’
Biden did not elaborate on what repercussions Putin would face in light of the election meddling report, although Washington is expected to impose further sanctions on Moscow, reportedly as early as next week.
The US has already imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials earlier this month over Moscow’s poisoning and imprisonment of opposition politician Alexey Navalny, in what Moscow has cast as an unacceptable intervention in its domestic affairs.
On Wednesday, the US commerce department said it was also tightening sanctions on some exports to Russia in response to the March 2018 poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England with a military-grade nerve agent.
Moscow has denied involvement in both attacks.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin said the US intelligence report on Russian election meddling has “absolutely no foundation and evidence” and warned that further sanctions would harm US-Russia relations.
Russia’s ambassador in the US will depart Washington on Saturday for urgent consultations in Moscow, the embassy said on Thursday, warning that bilateral ties were on the brink of “collapse”.
“On March 20, Ambassador of Russia to the United States Anatoly Antonov is leaving for Moscow for consultations,” the embassy said in a statement.
Antonov planned to discuss “ways to rectify Russia-US ties, which are in crisis,” it said.
It added that “certain ill-considered statements of high-ranking US officials have put the already excessively confrontational relations under the threat of collapse”.