Washington – President Joe Biden said Russia will “pay a price” for meddling in US elections and he agrees with the assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”
In an interview with ABC News broadcast on Wednesday, Biden was asked about a declassified US intelligence report that Putin tried to harm his candidacy in the November 2020 election and promote that of Donald Trump.
“He will pay a price,” the 78-year-old Biden said. “You’ll see shortly.”
The US president said he had a “long talk” with Putin after taking office in January and he knows him “relatively well.”
“The conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared,” Biden said.
Asked if he thought Putin, who has been accused of poisoning political opponents, is a “killer,” Biden said, “I do.”
The statement marked a stark contrast with Trump’s steadfast refusal to say anything negative about the Russian president.
In a 2017 interview with Fox News, Trump was asked about Putin being a “killer.” “There are a lot of killers,” he replied. “You think our country’s so innocent?”
Biden said that despite his thoughts about the Russian leader “there are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together.”
“That’s why I renewed the START agreement with him,” he said of the nuclear treaty. “That occurred while he’s doing this, but that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.”
‘Know the other guy’
The ABC News interviewer George Stephanopoulos also recalled to Biden that he once told Putin he “doesn’t have a soul.”
“I did say that to him, yes,” Biden said. “And his response was ‘We understand one another.’
“I wasn’t being a wise guy,” Biden said. “I was alone with him in his office, that’s how it came about.
“Look, the most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of them in my career, is just know the other guy,” he added.
The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament denounced Biden on Wednesday for agreeing with the description of Putin as a “killer.”
“Biden insulted the citizens of our country with his statement,” State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel. “Putin is our president. Attacks on him are attacks on our country.”
Biden’s statement was “hysteria from impotence,” he said.
The Kremlin on Wednesday also dismissed the US determination that Russia had targeted election infrastructure during the 2020 US polls.
“It is absolutely groundless and unsubstantiated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that it was an “excuse” to consider new sanctions on Moscow.
His words were echoed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who also called the conclusions of the US report “groundless.”
Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti that “hostile steps towards Russia” have become “the norm of life” in Washington.
According to US intelligence, Putin and other senior officials “were aware of and probably directed” Russia’s influence operation to sway the vote in Trump’s favour.
It concluded, however, that the election results were not compromised.
Russia faced allegations of US election meddling in 2016 for launching a social media campaign to boost Trump’s candidacy and discredit his opponent Hilary Clinton.
After Biden’s victory over Trump, Putin was among the last world leaders to congratulate the newly elected president.
Tensions between the former Cold War rivals have soared in recent months over hacking allegations and Washington’s demands that Russia free the jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Earlier in March, the United States announced fresh sanctions over Navalny, who was jailed last month on returning from Germany where he was recovering from exposure to a nerve agent.
Those sanctions added to the series of penalties already imposed on Moscow since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.