Putin responds to Biden calling him ‘killer’, challenges POTUS to debate

UPDATED @ 4:09 PM (EST) – CORRECTION: BIDEN TO VISIT U.S. STATE OF GEORGIA, NOT THE COUNTRY

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded coldly Thursday to U.S. President Joe Biden considering him a killer by bringing up controversial parts of U.S. history and present-day issues, and challenged Biden to debate him.

In an ABC interview that aired on Wednesday, Biden was asked whether he thought Putin was a killer, to which he replied: “I do.” The comment spurred Russia to recall its ambassador in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, warning of the possibility of an “irreversible deterioration of relations.”

During a Thursday video call commemorating the anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Putin was asked about Biden’s remark, and he responded by saying the U.S. has had dark periods in its own history and should acknowledge its shortcomings.

“We often project on other people that which…we are, in essence,” the Russian leader said.

“I would tell him: Be healthy,” Putin went on to say. “I wish him good health. I say this without irony, without joking.”

“I’ve just thought of this now,” Putin told a Russian state television reporter at another point. “I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called. Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”

Although, after his invitation, the Russian leader said he didn’t want to delay, suggesting he and Biden hold the discussion as early as Friday.

“I don’t want to put this off for long. I want to go the taiga this weekend to relax a little,” Putin said. “So we could do it tomorrow or Monday. We are ready at any time convenient for the American side.”

“We must continue our relations,” he noted. “Last time, President Biden initiated a call and now I would like to offer President Biden to continue our discussions. It would be in the interest of both Russian and the U.S. people and other countries, bearing in mind that we bear a special responsibility for global security as the largest nuclear powers.”

The back-and-forth between the two global heads of state comes after a declassified U.S. intelligence report that found Putin authorized operations to try to help former President Donald Trump to win reelection back in November. The Kremlin has denied the report’s statements, calling it baseless.

In the same ABC interview Wednesday, when asked about the report, Biden vowed that Putin “will pay the price”.

Biden’s administration has warned that Russia would face sanctions soon over its attempt to influence the 2020 presidential election and the massive Solar Wind hacks.

Responding to reporters’ questions, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday indicated the proposed conversation was unlikely to occur, noted that Biden is scheduled on Friday to visit to Georgia in the wake of the Atlanta-area shootings at massage parlors that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian-American women.

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“I’ll have to get back to you if that is something we’re entertaining. I would say that the president already had a conversation with President Putin,” Psaki said, noting Biden still had other word leaders to talk with. “The president, of course, will be in Georgia tomorrow and quite busy,” she said.

Psaki also said that Biden will continue to try to work with his Russian counterpart on areas of mutual interest. Though, she said that the U.S. president is “not going to hold back” when he has concerns about Putin’s actions.

Biden had no regrets describing to Putin as a killer, Psaki added.

“President Biden has known President Putin for a long time,” Psaki also said. “They’ve both been on the global stage for a long time, worked through many iterations of a relationship between the United States and Russia. And he believes we can continue to do that.”

She also rejected Putin’s response about the United States’ past and current problems, saying, “The president believes that one of the greatest attributes of the United States is our honest self-reflection, and our constant striving for progress and there’s always more work to do.”

In his Thursday comments, Putin brought up the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan during World War II, as well as its history of slavery and massacring Native Americans.

“Otherwise, where would the Black Lives Matter movement come from?” he said, referencing the killing of Black Americans and racial injustice.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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