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Kremlin Wants Apology From Fox News Over Putin 'Killer' Comment, Says Iran Not 'Terrorist'

  • RFE/RL

Speaking to U.S. President Donald Trump in an interview broadcast on February 5, Fox News's Bill O'Reilly called Putin "a killer."

The Kremlin says it wants an apology from Fox News over what it said were "unacceptable" comments one of the U.S. channel's presenters made about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to U.S. President Donald Trump in an interview broadcast on February 5, Fox News's Bill O'Reilly called Putin "a killer."

Trump responded, "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?"

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on February 6 that O'Reilly's comments were "unacceptable and insulting."

He said the Kremlin would like "to receive an apology to the president" from Fox.

Peskov declined to comment on Trump's response to O'Reilly's remark.

Trump's remarks on the Russian president have been followed closely in the United States, where critics say he is too complimentary about Putin.

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia used hacking and other methods to meddle in the 2016 presidential election campaign with the aim of discrediting U.S. democracy, bolstering Trump, and undermining his rival in the November vote, Hillary Clinton.

O'Reilly did not say who he believed Putin has killed.

Some Kremlin opponents say they believe Putin was behind killings of critics such as journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in 2006, and politician Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down in February 2015, as well as 1999 apartment-building bombings that killed hundreds of people in Russia and increased popular support for a second war against separatists in Chechnya. Putin and the Kremlin have denied involvement in these and other attacks.

In January 2016, after a British judge ruled that Putin might have authorized the fatal poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in 2006. Trump noted that Putin had not been convicted of killing the former KGB officer and said: "Many people say it wasn't him. So who knows who did it?"

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (left) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (left) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)

Speaking to journalists on February 6, Peskov also said that the Kremlin did not agree with remarks by Trump in which he called Iran a "terrorist state."

'Don't Fix What's Not Broken'

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, meanwhile, warned the United States not to try to "rewrite" a July 2015 deal between Tehran and six world powers that curtailed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

"My advice to our U.S. colleagues on the Iran nuclear deal is very simple: Don't try to fix what is not broken," Ryabkov said in an interview with the Russian PIR-Center think tank's magazine, Security Index.

"It would be too risky to try to launch a new process on such a serious issue and seek new terms of the deal," he said. "This would be an undesirable and negative scenario, which would only add fuel to the fire in the Middle East."

Trump has called the deal forged with Iran by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany "one of the worst deals we have ever made" and indicated during his campaign that he would seek to abandon or alter it, but has taken no specific steps to do so since he took office on January 20. His administration did, however, impose new sanctions on Iran on February 3, after Tehran carried out a medium-range ballistic-missile test.

Russia has close relations with Iran, and both countries' military forces are backing the Syrian government in the country's civil war.

While criticizing Trump's characterization of Iran, Peskov said that differences between Russia and the United States should not stop the two countries from building a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ukraine Conflict

The Kremlin also took issue with the White House's description of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are fighting Russia-backed separatists in a war that has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014.

In a brief statement about Trump's February 4 telephone call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the White House said the two discussed topics including "Ukraine's long-running conflict with Russia."

Peskov said: "There is no conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Donbas is exclusively an internal Ukrainian conflict."

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the conflict, despite large amounts of evidence that it stirred up separatism in eastern Ukraine early in 2014 and has sent military forces and weapons into the region, which borders Russia, to help the separatists.

The White House statement quoted Trump as saying the United States "will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border."

Trump's talk with Poroshenko came a week after he spoke by phone with Putin, their first conversation since Trump took office on January 20.

An upsurge in fighting in the Donbas killed at least 35 people last week in a week of escalated fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists.

On February 2, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, expressed "strong condemnation of Russia's actions" in eastern Ukraine.

Haley also said that "Crimea is a part of Ukraine" and that U.S. sanctions related to Russia's seizure of Crimea in March 2014 "will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, AP, and TASS
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