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Russia recalls its US ambassador; Putin throws 2 insults back at Biden after Biden calls him a ‘killer’

President Joe Biden on the phone with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Feb. 18, 2021, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
March 18, 2021

Russia announced late Wednesday that it was withdrawing its ambassador to the U.S. effective Saturday for “consultations” after U.S. President Joe Biden publicly attacked and threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“On March 20, Ambassador of Russia to the United States Anatoly Antonov is leaving for Moscow for consultations. During his meetings in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies, it is planned to discuss ways to rectify Russia-U.S. ties that are in crisis,” the Russian embassy confirmed on Wednesday.

“The current situation is a result of the deliberate policy of Washington that during the past years was making steps to bring — in essence, intentionally — our bilateral interaction into a deadlock. The unconstructive course of the Administration towards our country does not meet the interests of Russia and the United States, while certain ill-considered statements of high-ranking U.S. officials have put the already excessively confrontational relations under the threat of collapse at all,” the statement added.

Russia’s move comes a day after Biden’s sit-down interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, during which he characterized Putin as “a killer” and threatened Russia would “pay the price” for interfering in the Nov. 2020 presidential election – a revelation declassified by Biden’s intelligence chief this week.

“[Putin] will pay a price,” Biden said, 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.”

When Stephanopoulos asked if Biden thought Putin was “a killer,” Biden replied. “Mmm hmm, I do.”

In reaction to Biden’s comments, Putin said on Thursday, “I remember in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard we used to say: it takes one to know one. And that’s not a coincidence, not just a children’s saying or joke,” as Reuters reported.

Putin implied that Biden was projecting his own self-assessment, saying, “We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are. And as a result we assess (a person’s) activities and give assessments.”

Putin added that he wishes Biden good health “without any irony or joke.”

Putin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov later called Biden’s comments “very bad,” on Thursday, adding, “He clearly does not want to improve relations with our country, and we will be proceeding based precisely on this,” as New York Times reported.

Russian news programs characterized Biden as confused and out of touch. Numerous Russian lawmakers were also infuriated by Biden’s insults and demanded an apology.

Konstantin I. Kosachev, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, called Biden’s words “rude” and unacceptable, and warned Russia would take additional action “if explanations and apologies do not follow from the American side.”

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Biden’s words were an attack on Russia and its citizens.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday the ambassador was being recalled to discuss ways to improve Russian-US relations.

“We are interested in preventing an irreversible deterioration in relations, if the Americans become aware of the risks associated with this,” Zakharova said. “This is what we will talk about during the consultations that the Foreign Ministry and other relevant agencies will hold with the Russian Ambassador to the United States.”

Biden’s threat to make Russia “pay a price” came from 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.