The Kremlin has accused U.S. President Joe Biden of not wanting to improve bilateral ties after “unprecedented” comments in which he said believed Vladimir Putin is a killer.
Already tense relations between Moscow and Washington were strained further after Biden, who has spent more than four decades in politics, said "I do" when asked by ABC News on March 17 if he believed the Russian president was a killer.
In the Kremlin's first comments since Biden made the remarks, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such statements are “unprecedented” in the history of Russian-U.S. relations and he warned that Russia's response to these remarks would be "absolutely clear."
"These statements from the president of the United States are very bad. It is clear that he does not want to get the relationship with our country back on track, and we will proceed from that," Peskov told reporters.
Putin, however, appeared to be more sanguine over the comments.
When asked about them at a news conference on March 18, he said he wished Biden "good health" and that people tend to see others as they really see themselves. He added that Moscow will continue working with the United States if the conditions benefit Russia.
Washington's relations with Moscow are at post-Cold War lows, strained by issues including Russia's alleged meddling in elections in the United States and other democracies, the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, cyberattacks from Russian hackers, and the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.
The Biden interview came on the heels of a report by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence that assessed that Putin had “authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President [Donald] Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the United States.”
The Kremlin immediately denied the findings of the report, saying they were “absolutely unfounded.”
Biden also said he had come to know Putin "relatively well" over the years and that he doesn't believe Putin has a soul. He also sent a warning that Putin will soon "pay a price" for trying to interfere in November's presidential election.
Within hours of the comments, Russia summoned its ambassador to the United States back to Moscow for consultations. The reverberations continued the next day when a senior Russian lawmaker and Kremlin ally said Biden owes the country an apology.
“This is a watershed moment. This gross statement sends any expectations from the new U.S. administration's new policy toward Russia down the drain," Konstantin Kosachyov, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's upper house, wrote in a Facebook post on March 18.
"Recalling the Russian ambassador from Washington to Moscow for consultations is a prompt and adequate reaction, the only right one in this situation. I suspect that it will not be the last [step] if the American side does not offer its explanation and apology," he added.
Despite strained relations, Biden noted that it was possible to "walk and chew gum at the same time for places where it's in our mutual interest to work together."
Russia has dismissed U.S. comments on Navalny and Ukraine as unacceptable interference in its domestic affairs.