Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off Joe Biden’s assertion that he is a “killer” days before an expected meeting with the U.S. president.
In an interview with NBC News, excerpts of which the outlet posted Friday, journalist Keir Simmons noted that Biden was asked earlier this year whether he thought Putin was a “killer” and Biden said, “I do.”
Simmons then asked Putin directly if this is true, to which Putin laughed and said: “Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas, under all kinds of pretext and reasons, and of different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me.”
Simmons pressed further, naming political opponents of Putin’s who’ve been killed, and Putin responded: “Look, you know, I don’t want to come across as being rude, but this looks like some kind of indigestion except that it’s verbal indigestion. You’ve mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time for various reasons, at the hands of different individuals.”
Over the years, a number of Putin critics have been killed or sickened or have died in mysterious ways. British intelligence linked Russia to the 2018 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in a bold attack on foreign soil.
In the interview with NBC, Simmons asked Putin to compare Biden to former President Donald Trump — whom critics accused of being soft on Russia — and Putin replied by calling Trump “talented” and “a colorful individual.”
Biden is “radically different from Trump,” Putin said, because he is a “career man” who “spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics.”
“It is my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president,” Putin said.
Biden and Putin are expected to meet in person at a summit in Geneva on June 16 amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
The Biden administration has sanctioned Russia in response to the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, as well as its alleged role in the SolarWinds cyberattack, in which hackers accessed the data of several U.S. agencies and dozens of private companies. The Biden administration has also criticized Russia over its alleged poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is now imprisoned.
Just weeks after taking office earlier this year, Biden said that he’d communicated to the Russian president in a call that the U.S. would not be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks, poisoning citizens.”
Trump was often called out for being too friendly with Putin, even as U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in an effort to aid Trump’s win.
Biden is currently in Britain for a meeting with the Group of Seven leaders, including U.S. allies Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.