Russian President Putin wishes Biden 'good health' after US leader's 'killer' insult

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) – Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back at American counterpart Joe Biden’s accusation that he’s a killer, saying “it takes one to know one” as he insisted that the US will have to take Russia’s interests into account despite insults.

“I would say to him: I wish you good health,” Mr Putin said on Thursday (March 18), asked for his response during a televised videoconference marking the seventh anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

He said Moscow would continue to work with Washington in areas of common interest.

Other Russian officials were more confrontational. Mr Konstantin Kosachyov, Deputy Speaker of Russia’s Upper House of Parliament demanded an apology from Mr Biden for his “boorish” allegations.

The US President’s remark is a “watershed” in relations and “unacceptable in any circumstances”, Mr Kosachyov wrote on Facebook Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry said it expects an explanation from Washington, Interfax reported. Late on Wednesday, the ministry announced that it was summoning ambassador Anatoly Antonov for consultations.

Warning of the risks of “an irreversible deterioration in relations” with the new US administration, the ministry said Russia still hopes to reverse the downward spiral.

The diplomatic demarche came after Mr Biden agreed with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview that Mr Putin was a killer and said the Russian leader would “pay a price” for alleged meddling in US elections.

Mr Biden’s comments, recorded on Tuesday, came on the same day as a US intelligence community report that Mr Putin ordered influence operations to hurt his candidacy in the 2020 election, favouring former president Donald Trump just as the intelligence community says the Russian leader did in 2016 against then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin denies any interference.

The rouble was little changed on Thursday after falling to the lowest in a week a day earlier.

Many officials in Mr Putin’s government and associates of the Russian leader already live under US sanctions due to previous rounds of punishment for election interference, attacks on political opponents and Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, limiting Mr Biden’s options for fresh targets.

Asked on a conference call with reporters what could be done to improve current “very bad” relations with the US, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was dismissive. “That’s not a question for us,” he said.

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New US sanctions could come as soon as next week and may target Russia’s oligarchs and others close to Mr Putin, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The impact of the penalties may be muted, as Russians hit with US sanctions usually don’t maintain US bank accounts or have plans to travel to the country.

In his interview, Mr Biden said he’d had a “long talk” with Mr Putin and had told him: “I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

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