Russia blasts Joe Biden for calling Putin a 'killer' as Moscow recalls US envoy: 'Disgraceful, shameless'
Moscow took the dramatic step after the US president called his Russian counterpart a 'killer' and said he would have to pay a price for 'meddling' in US election
The US relations with Russia saw another low point on Wednesday, March 17, when the latter recalled its ambassador to Washington after President Joe Biden called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “killer”. Russia said it recalled its envoy Anatoly Antonov to Moscow for consultations on its ties with the US but also stressed that it wanted to avoid an “irreversible deterioration” in relations.
The Russian foreign ministry made the announcement in a dramatic escalation after Biden said Moscow would “pay a price” for interfering in American elections and agreed with the assessment of Putin as a “killer”. “The Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, has been invited to come to Moscow for consultations conducted with the aim of analyzing what should be done and where to go in the context of ties with the United States,” foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
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Biden uttered strong words on the Kremlin in an exclusive interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that was aired on Wednesday morning. Shortly before the interview, Washington’s intelligence community unveiled a declassified report that assessed foreign powers’ attempts to influence last year’s presidential election. One of the report’s conclusions was that Putin had authorized “influence operations” -- moves to influence a target audience act in a certain way -- to hurt the Democrat’s chances of winning the election and boost former president Donald Trump, who appeared more accommodating towards the Russians.
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Biden told @GStephanopoulos that he agreed Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "killer" and will "pay a price" for interfering in U.S. elections. https://t.co/rIe2ms8sSv pic.twitter.com/VtAGCvF9hp— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 17, 2021
When Stephanopoulos read some of those conclusions to President Biden and asked him: “What price must [Putin] pay?,” the later replied: “He will pay a price.” Biden then mentioned about his tense phone conversation with Putin in January in which he told his counterpart: “If I establish this occurred” — meaning that Russia had interfered in the 2020 election — “then be prepared.” He though did not specify what “price” exactly Biden would face. CNN reporter Kylie Atwood said recently that the Biden administration is planning to impose sanctions on those countries that interfered in the 2020 election, including Russia, soon and it is therefore possible that the Kremlin was set to face heavy financial penalties. Also, when Stephanopoulos asked Biden whether he though Putin is a killer after the latter said the most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders is to “just know the other guy”. In his response, Biden said: “I do”. Stephanopoulos also reminded Biden that he once told Putin he “doesn’t have a soul”. Biden admitted saying: “I did say that to him, yes. And his response was, ‘We understand one another.”
New: The Biden admin is expected to announce sanctions related to election interference as soon as next week, 3 admin officials tell me. They didn't disclose details related to the expected sanctions but said that they'll target multiple countries including Russia, China & Iran.— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) March 16, 2021
Also on Wednesday, Washington announced expansion of export restrictions imposed on Moscow earlier this month as a measure to penalize it for poisoning jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Under the new measures which will be effective on Thursday, March 18, Russia will be denied export of more items controlled for national security reasons, including technology, software and parts, the commerce department said.
The Russian foreign ministry stopped short of referring to Biden’s remarks on Putin but it said the most important thing for Moscow was to determine how to repair its relations with Washington it accused of driving into a dead end in recent years. She said the Kremlin was keen to prevent the two nuclear powers’ relations’ “irreversible deterioration if Americans understand the risks associated with it”. The ministry also said that Russia was planning to analyze the results of Biden’s first 100 days in office.
Biden's remarks a challenge to entire Russia: Top Russian leader
Meanwhile, strong reactions originated in Russia over Biden’s criticism of Putin. Andrey Turchak, secretary general of the ruling United Russia party and the first deputy speaker of the country’s Federation Council, said on Wednesday Biden’s remarks about his Russian opposite number posed a challenge to the entire Russia and are “a triumph of political insanity”.
"Biden’s statement is just a triumph of political insanity in the US and age-caused dementia of their leader. It is the ultimate level of aggression caused by powerlessness," the party’s press service quoted Turchak as saying. The Pskov Oblast senator said Biden “cannot reach approval ratings” of Putin and called the US president’s statement “disgraceful and shameless”.
According to the lawmaker, Biden "cannot reach the approval ratings" of Putin. "Generally, it is a disgraceful and shameless statement. It is a challenge to our whole country," Turchak concluded.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the media on Wednesday that Russia considers the claims of it having meddled in the 2020 presidential election to be baseless. “We can only once again express regret that these materials, which are far from being of any quality, are used as a pretext to bring forward the issue of more sanctions” against Russia, he said. Peskov also said that Moscow has been compelled to take steps to safeguard its interests and reduce all risks from more likely sanctions by the US, Russia’s TASS news agency said. “Of course, we are forced to take all necessary measures in order to hedge any risks associated with possible sanctions and to protect the interests of our country as much as possible,” he said.
Former US Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter, who also served as a weapon inspector at the UN and became a critic of the US’s Middle East policy later, slammed Biden’s statement on Putin. In an op-ed he penned for Russia Today, Ritter said: “Joe Biden’s effort to label Vladimir Putin as a “soulless killer” is the latest in a series of fact-free allegations that define US-Russian relations today. The real aim is to make Biden look like the strong leader he isn’t.”