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Putin challenges Biden to a live public debate after Biden calls Putin a ‘killer’

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Adam Schultz/White House) | Russian President Vladimir Putin during virtual meetings on March 18, 2021. (Kremlin/Released)
March 18, 2021

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin challenged U.S. President Joe Biden to a live debate just hours after a new interview in which Biden said Putin is a “killer.”

“I’ve just thought of this now,” Putin told a Russian state television reporter, ABC News reported. “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.”

Putin’s challenge to Biden comes a day after Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he believes Putin is a killer and threatened retaliation over a U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2020 election.

“[Putin] will pay a price,” Biden told Stephanopoulos, without elaborating on the repercussions. “We had a long talk, he and I, when we — I know him relatively well. And the conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

Reacting to Biden’s remarks in a separate set of remarks during a Kremlin press conference on Thursday, Putin said, “With regard to my US colleague’s remark, we have, indeed, as he said, met in person. What would I tell him? I would say ‘stay healthy.’ I wish him good health. I am saying this without irony or tongue in cheek.”

Putin added, “Secondly, taking a broader approach to this matter, I would like to say that difficult, dramatic, and bloody events abound in the history of every nation and every state. But when we evaluate other people, or even other states and nations, we are always facing a mirror, we always see ourselves in the reflection, because we project our inner selves onto the other person. You know, I remember when we were children and played in the yard, we had arguments occasionally and we used to say: whatever you call me is what you are called yourself. This is no coincidence or just a kids’ saying or joke. It has a very deep psychological undercurrent.”

On Wednesday, Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. in reaction to Biden’s remarks.

Biden’s threat to make Russia “pay a price” came after findings from The National Intelligence Council report released on Tuesday, which said, “We assess that Russian President (Vladimir) Putin 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 Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.”

The report said that, unlike in 2016, U.S. intelligence officials did not see Russian efforts to interfere with the election through cyber efforts.

“Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives—including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden—to US media organizations, US officials and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration,” the report added.

The assessment of the Russian efforts to influence the election comes after the New York Post ran articles in October, based on the contents of a laptop allegedly belonging to President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The contents of the laptop included emails that appeared to show efforts by the younger Biden to introduce the older Biden to his Ukrainian business partners. At the time the story was originally published, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the New York Post’s reporting was part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Then-DNI John Ratcliffe denied Schiff’s disinformation claim and said no intelligence existed to support that assertion.

Biden also frequently criticized Russia during the 2020 presidential campaign season, over allegations Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to target U.S. troops. He also criticized Trump for not speaking out about another incident in which Russian military vehicles rammed U.S. military vehicles in Syria.