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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Vladimir Putin wishes Joe Biden 'good health' in veiled threat after US president calls him a 'killer': Kremlin says words were 'not acceptable' and describes relations as 'very bad' between the two countries

 Vladimir Putin wished Joe Biden 'good health' on Thursday after the U.S. president called him a 'killer' - a description seen as an insult by the Russians and has escalated tensions between the two countries. 

The Russian president made the veiled threat in an interview on state TV. Western officials have accused Putin ordering the assassination attempt of his most vocal domestic critic, Aleksei Navalny, which Putin has denied.

Putin said of Biden's 'killer' accusation that 'it takes one to know one.' 


'I would say to him: I wish you good health,' the Russian president said when asked his response to the U.S. president's charge.  

His comment on Biden came after the American president described Putin as 'without a soul' during an interview with ABC News.

Russia is demanding an apology from the United States for the strong words. The provocative comments prompted the Kremlin to make the highly unusual move on Wednesday to recall Anatoly Antonov, its ambassador to the US, for urgent consultations over the future of US-Russia ties. 

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it was a 'very bad statement by the U.S. president' that made it clear that 'he doesn't want to normalize relations.'

'He clearly does not want to improve relations with our country, and we will be proceeding based precisely on this,' Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.  

In an ABC News interview, Biden said 'I do' when asked if he believed the Russian president was a killer, described Putin as having no soul, and promised his counter part in the Kremlin would pay a price for alleged Russian meddling in the 2020 presidential election, something the Kremlin denies. 

Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy chairman of parliament's upper house, said Biden's comments were unacceptable, would inevitably worsen already bad ties, and ended any hope in Moscow of a change of U.S. policy under a new U.S. administration.

He said Moscow's recall of its ambassador was the only reasonable step to take in the circumstances.

'I suspect it will not be the last one if no explanation or apology follows from the American side,' Kosachyov said in a Facebook post.

'This kind of assessment is not allowed from the mouth of a statesman of such a rank. This kind of statement is not acceptable under any circumstances,' he added, calling it a watershed moment in US-Russia ties. 

Meanwhile Artur Chilingarov, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, called for a 'tough reaction' from Moscow in comments made to Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio station. 

The comments come after the White House has spent weeks telegraphing a tougher posture toward Russia under a Biden administration – and Moscow has once again bristled at accusations that it serves as a 'malign' influence in global affairs.

'Our administration is going to take a different approach in our relationship to Russia than the prior administration,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in her briefing on Wednesday, pointing to Biden's comments in the interview with ABC News.

Fueling the rising tensions is a startling new assessment by U.S. intelligence that lays out Russia's campaign to influence the 2020 elections – on the heels of the Treasury Department slapping sanctions on officials as retaliation for the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny with a chemical agent. Among those hit with sanctions was the director of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the FSB.

The extraordinary move by Moscow to remove its ambassador – a gesture undertaken by nations wishing to send a serious diplomatic signal – came after Biden not only ripped into Putin but vowed the Russian strongman would 'pay a price.'

It was just the latest time when the new Biden team has sought to draw a sharp line on Russia distinguishing it from former President Donald Trump – who repeatedly praised Putin and even appeared to take Putin's side when he denied allegations of election interference during their infamous summit in Helsinki. 

Joe Biden said in a sit-down with ABC News that aired Wednesday morning that Russia would 'pay a price' for interfering in the 2020 U.S. election

Joe Biden said in a sit-down with ABC News that aired Wednesday morning that Russia would 'pay a price' for interfering in the 2020 U.S. election

Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy chairman of parliament's upper house, said Biden's comments were unacceptable in a Facebook post

Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy chairman of parliament's upper house, said Biden's comments were unacceptable in a Facebook post

Despite Trump's repeated efforts to forge better ties with Moscow even after its election hacking, his administration tightened sanctions on Russia under laws enacted after his election meant to add pressure to sanctions already in place following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Biden made his comment about the 'price' Putin would pay just after the U.S. Director of National Intelligence released a report that assessed Russian intelligence officials fed disinformation to Donald Trump allies about the Bidens during the 2020 campaigns as part of an election influence effort. 

It even said proxies for Putin himself pushed 'misleading or 'unsubstantiated' allegations about Biden during the campaign. Some of those attacks were amplified by President Trump, who regularly went after Biden for 'corruption' and brought up Hunter Biden's dealings in Ukraine, and who the intel report assessed Russia preferred in the election. 

Biden not only ripped into Putin but vowed the Russian strongman would 'pay a price' for alleged election interfering

Biden not only ripped into Putin but vowed the Russian strongman would 'pay a price' for alleged election interfering

'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,' according to a statement by Russia's foreign ministry. 

Russian officials now say they will consult with its Washington envoy on the Kremlin's ties with the U.S. but stressed it wanted to prevent an 'irreversible deterioration' in relations. 

Even with the high stakes drama between nuclear powers, recalling an ambassador can sometimes be less than meets the eye.

In 1988, Russia recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Great Britain to protest joint raids against Iraq. But it had little effect. 'Recalling an ambassador for consultations means absolutely nothing,' said former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock. 'It's just a gesture.' he said as quoted in a lengthy thesis by Olivia McCaffrey: 'Silent Statecraft: The Revocation of Ambassadors as a Diplomatic Tool.'

Recalled: Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov was returned to Moscow for 'consultations' after Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a 'killer'

Recalled: Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov was returned to Moscow for 'consultations' after Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a 'killer'

The U.S. had already hinted that additional sanctions on Russians are coming before the release of the 15-page declassified version of the report.

Asked about Biden's 'killer' comment at the White House Wednesday, Psaki responded: 'I don't have anything more for you to provide analysis on that.'

She also defended Biden's posture, saying he 'does not hold back on his concerns about what we see as malign and problematic actions' by Russia. She listed election interference, reported bounties on U.S. troops, and the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 

On August 20, 2020, Navalny was poisoned with a Novichock nerve agent. Navalny was flying into Moscow when he became extremely ill and was hospitalized in Omsk, Russia after an emergency landing. 

On August 20, 2020, arch Putin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichock nerve agent

On August 20, 2020, arch Putin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichock nerve agent

The opposition leader was transferred to a hospital in Berlin, Germany two days later - and ended up being hospitalized for more than a month. 

He was discharged on September 22. 

Russian prosecutors refused to open a criminal probe into Navalny's poisoning, claiming there was no evidence a crime had been committed. 

Navalny returned to Russia after fleeing the country following his poisoning. His conviction and sentencing, which followed his claims of evidence showing corruption by Putin, led to nationwide protests. 

On Wednesday the Commerce Department said it was ratcheting up sanctions on some Russian exports in response to Navalany's poisoning. They related to aviation and space equipment.  

It tightened sanctions put in place following the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer in Great Britain. 

'He's not going to hold back on his direct communications,' Psaki said, 'nor is he going to hold back publicly. And we have still found ways to work together on areas where we have mutual interests.' 

Kremlin announces Russia is taking measures before US sanctions
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Biden lashed out at the Kremlin in an interview that aired Wednesday morning. 'He will pay a price,' Biden told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos, without offering specifics.

'We had a long talk, he and I. I know him relatively well and the conversation started off, I said, 'I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred then be prepared.'

Among the startling assessments of the DNI's report is that Russia will likely continue its election influence campaign, despite being publicly identified. The Kremlin considers it to be a 'manageable risk,' according to the report.

When pushed on what the consequences would be, the president said: 'The price he's going to pay, well, you'll see shortly.'

Biden said he wouldn't reveal exactly what consequences he would levy, but did indicate it is in America and Russia's 'interest to work together' 

Biden's comments come as his Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines released a report revealing that the agency concluded while Putin did authorize an influence campaign, Russia did not target U.S. election processes in the 2020 contest.

According to the assessment, the Kremlin did not make 'persistent efforts' on election infrastructure.

'We had a long talk, he and I. I know him relatively well,' Biden said of his Russian counterpart, adding that he said during the talk: ''I looked in your eyes and I don't think you have a soul.' He looked back and said, 'We understand each other''

'We had a long talk, he and I. I know him relatively well,' Biden said of his Russian counterpart, adding that he said during the talk: ''I looked in your eyes and I don't think you have a soul.' He looked back and said, 'We understand each other''

'The president's relationship and this administration's relationship with the Russians will be very different from what we've seen over the last four years,' White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told DailyMail.com

'The president's relationship and this administration's relationship with the Russians will be very different from what we've seen over the last four years,' White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told


The new report did find that Russian proxies tried to 'launder' their efforts to swing the election in favor of Donald Trump through people close to the former president.

The White House assured that Biden is taking a different approach with Russia and Putin than Trump – referring to criticism of the former president for his closer-than-comfortable relationship with the oppressive leader.

'The president's relationship and this administration's relationship with the Russians will be very different from what we've seen over the last four years – and we've already seen evidence of that from his first phone call with President Putin,' White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told DailyMail.com during a press briefing on Wednesday.

'President Biden has been clear that the United States will also respond to a number of destabilizing Russian actions,' she continued, adding there are several new investigations related to relations with the Kremlin.

'The Russians have intervened, or attempted to intervene, in elections for many years – I mean, long before 2016. We certainly are eyes-wide-open about that and fully aware of that,' Psaki said.

'We are not going to look the other way, as we saw a bit over the last four years, and we will continue to press them on their actions,' she continued in reference to election interference and allegations of poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 

During Biden's interview, which aired during 'Good Morning America' on Wednesday, the president called his Russian counterpart a 'killer' and claimed he has no soul.

'So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he is a killer?' Stephanopoulos asked Biden.

He responded: 'Uh-huh, I do.'

A bit earlier, the ABC anchor pointed out: 'You said you know he doesn't have a soul.'

'I did say that to him, yes,' the president affirmed.

'And his response was, 'We understand one another.' I wasn't being a wise guy. I was alone with him in his office. That's how it came about,' he described.

'It was when President Bush said he looked in his [Putin's] eyes and saw his soul. I said, 'I looked in your eyes and I don't think you have a soul.' He looked back and said, 'We understand each other.''

Biden continued: 'Look, the most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders in my experience and dealt with an awful lot over my career is just know the other guy.'

Biden's interview with ABC was only the second sit-down with the media since taking office January 20 – his first aired right before the Super Bowl early last month.

The president has also yet to hold a news conference with members of the press.

On Tuesday, the White House finally announced Biden would hold a press conference on March 25, more than two months after becoming president.    

Biden held a call just a few days after taking office with Putin to talk about a range of issues.

During the call, the White House said Biden demanded Putin 'unconditionally release' jailed Kremlin critic and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was taken into custody January 17, 2021.

The new DNI report Tuesday judges that Russia's campaign in the U.S. elections was aimed at 'denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party.' 

'Moscow's strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives – including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden.' 

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