White House defends Biden calling Putin a killer: ‘The president gave a direct answer to a direct question’

Press secretary says president ‘is not going to hold back’ when he has concerns about the Russian leader

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 18 March 2021 16:38 EDT

Related: Putin responds to Biden ‘killer’ claim

The White House doubled down on President Joe Biden’s comments in an interview saying he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was a killer following numerous accusations of assassination and poisoning attempts surrounding the Kremlin.

Speaking to reporters during the daily briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president had no regrets when it came to the recent comments, which seemingly escalated tensions between Washington and the Kremlin this week. 

“The president gave a direct answer to a direct question,” Ms Psaki said. “We are confident that we can continue to look for ways where there’s a mutual interest … But the president is not going to hold back, clearly, when he has concerns — when he has them — whether it is with words or actions.”

Asked in the ABC News interview whether he thought Mr Putin was a killer, Mr Biden responded: “I do.” 

Mr Biden also said in the interview that Mr Putin “will pay a price” over a declassified report from the US national intelligence director’s office which showed the Kremlin had attempted to intervene in the 2020 elections in support of former President Donald Trump, and that those actions were authorized by the Russian president himself. 

Mr Putin then shot back in a statement to reporters on Thursday, effectively responding to Mr Biden’s comments about him being a killer by suggesting “it takes one to know one.”

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“It’s not just a rhymed childish joke, it has a deep psychological meaning: We see our own qualities in another man, we think he’s like us and judge him accordingly,” Mr Putin said of Mr Biden, adding, “I would tell him: Be well.’ I wish him health, and I say that without any irony or joking.”

After the US president’s comments were released this week, the Kremlin announced on Wednesday it would recall its Washington ambassador. It remained unclear whether the country was planning to sever all diplomatic ties over the conflict. 

Allegations have surrounded the Kremlin for years over assassination attempts, while many western leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, believe it was behind the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

During his annual marathon press conference, Mr Putin said about Mr Navalny: “Who needs him? If somebody had wanted to poison him, they would have finished him off.”

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