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Russia warns of escalation after Biden calls Putin a killer

Senior Russian lawmaker slams US president’s ‘unacceptable’ statement; Kremlin says it’s clear Washington doesn’t wish to improve strained bilateral ties

US President Joe Biden (L) on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 5, 2020 (Eric BARADAT and Pavel Golovkin / various sources / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (L) on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 5, 2020 (Eric BARADAT and Pavel Golovkin / various sources / AFP)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin on Thursday denounced US President Joe Biden’s remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning it would rethink its approach to relations with Washington.

Russia on Wednesday announced it was recalling its ambassador in Washington for consultations after Biden was asked in an interview whether he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin is a killer and said “I do.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it was a “very bad statement by the US president” that made it clear that “he doesn’t want to normalize relations.”

“We will proceed accordingly,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters, noting that “there was nothing like that in history.” He wouldn’t answer if Russia could go as far as to rupture diplomatic ties with the United States.

Konstantin Kosachev at a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 22, 2018 (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Konstantin Kosachev, a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said Biden’s “boorish statement” marks a watershed.

“Such assessments are inadmissible for a statesman of his rank,” Kosachev said. “Such statements are unacceptable under any circumstances. They inevitably lead to a sharp exacerbation of our bilateral ties.”

Kosachev warned that Russia’s response wouldn’t be limited to recalling the Russian ambassador “if the American side fails to offer explanation and excuse.” He wouldn’t elaborate on what other action the Kremlin may take.

While announcing the decision to recall the Russian ambassador in Washington, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the US for bringing bilateral ties to a “dead end,” adding that “we are interested in preventing their irreversible degradation, if the Americans are aware of the associated risks.”

Commenting on the Russian move Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki emphasized that “we will be direct, we will speak out on areas where we have concerns, and it will certainly be, as the president said last night — certainly, the Russians will be held accountable for the actions that they have taken.”

The exchange of tough statements comes on the heels of a declassified report from the US national intelligence director’s office that found Putin authorized influence operations to help Donald Trump in last November’s presidential election.

“(Putin) will pay a price,” Biden said in the interview, asked about the declassified report.

Russia’s relations with the United States and the European Union already have plunged to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, election meddling, hacking attacks and, most recently, the jailing of Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny that followed his poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. The Russian authorities rejected the accusations.

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