Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday mocked his US counterpart Joe Biden, escalating a war of words between the two world leaders.
Putin said “it takes one to know one” after Biden, a day earlier, said he thought the Russian leader was a “killer”.
Biden made the comment in an ABC News interview broadcast on Wednesday. When asked if he thought the Russian leader, who has been accused of ordering the poisoning of Alexey Navalny and other rivals, is a “killer”, Biden replied: “I do.”
Biden also described Putin as having no soul, and said he would pay a price for alleged Russian meddling in the November 2020 US presidential election, something the Kremlin denies.
Putin on Thursday retorted: “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.
“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.
“As he [Biden] said, we know each other personally. What would I reply to him? I would say: I wish you health. I wish you health. I say that without any irony or joke.”
In a highly unusual move following Biden’s interview, Russia said it was recalling its ambassador to the United States for urgent consultations over the future of US-Russia ties.
The Russian embassy in Washington, DC said in a statement that Anatoly Antonov will leave the US on Saturday.
It added that “certain ill-considered statements of high-ranking US officials have put the already excessively confrontational relations under the threat of collapse”.
Russian legislators urge ‘tough’ response
Shortly before Putin spoke on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Biden’s remarks showed he had no interest in fixing ties with Moscow.
“These are really bad remarks by the US president. He has clearly shown that he doesn’t want to improve relations with our country,” Peskov said. “We will now proceed from that.”
Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said Biden’s remarks would inflame already bad ties, and ended any hope in Moscow of a change in US policy.
Kosachyov added that recalling ambassador Antonov was a reasonable step.
“I suspect it will not be the last one if no explanation or apology follows from the American side,” he said in a Facebook post.
Artur Chilingarov, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, called for a “tough reaction” from Moscow, in comments made to Russia’s Ekho Moskvy radio station.
US tightens sanctions over Navalny
Moscow’s ties with the West, already languishing at post-Cold War lows since 2014, have come under new pressure in recent months over Navalny, who is jailed in Russia.
Western powers, including the US, have demanded Navalny is freed. Russia has dismissed those calls as unacceptable interference in its domestic affairs.
On Wednesday, the US Commerce Department tightened sanctions on some exports to Russia as punishment for Navalny’s alleged poisoning in August of last year.
The department said the move would toughen restrictions originally put in place in response to the March 2018 poisoning of former Russian military officer intelligence Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, with a military-grade nerve agent.
Moscow has denied any role in either case.
The US is thought to be readying further sanctions against Russia over the alleged hacking and meddling in the 2020 election.
“You’ll see shortly,” Biden told ABC, when asked what consequences Russia would face.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow expected an explanation for Biden’s remarks, the Interfax news agency reported.