The Russian embassy warned that Washington had pushed bilateral ties to the brink
Vladimir Putin wished Joe Biden "good health" as allies of the Russian president claimed his 78-year-old opposite number was suffering from dementia. Staring straight into a TV camera Mr. Putin said he wanted the US president to "be well" and that he was "not joking". Mr. Putin made his remarks after the US president called him a "killer" with "no soul'. In response to that particular allegation, Mr. Putin said: "It takes one to know one."
Mr. Putin also lambasted the US for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in the Second World War, its treatment of Native American tribes, and racial injustice. He said: "Otherwise, where would the Black Lives Matter movement come from?" Asked about Mr. Putin's offer of virtual talks in the next few days Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the US president was traveling on Friday and "quite busy". She added: "I've been doing this long enough not to try to get in the mind of President Putin. But I can assure you President Biden still believes there is more work we could do here in our own country."
Ms. Psaki said: "President Biden has known President Putin for a long time. Our ambassador remains in Moscow. We remain engaged. We are confident we can continue to look for ways where there is mutual national interest." Asked if Mr. Biden considered Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia a "killer" she said: "I don't think I need to add more killer names from the podium just today." The high-stakes transatlantic spat plunged relations between the White House and Kremlin to their lowest ebb since the Cold War. Russia recalled its ambassador for the first time since 1998 and demanded an apology from Mr. Biden.
The tensions erupted after a US intelligence report concluded Mr. Putin was behind clandestine attempts to damage Mr. Biden and boost Donald Trump, in America's election last year. In a TV interview on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said Mr. Putin would "pay a price" for that. Asked if he thought Mr. Putin was "a killer" he replied: "I do." State television in Russia had since been reporting suggestions that Mr. Biden was elderly and confused. Mr. Putin then responded during a video call marking the seventh anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea. He was asked about Mr. Biden's comments by a woman in Crimea. Mr. Putin said: "I would tell him 'Be well'. I wish him health. And I say that without any irony or joking." Referring to Mr. Biden's "killer" remark the Russian leader went on to recall a game from his childhood. He said: "When we argued in the courtyard with each other we used to say 'It takes one to know one. And that's not a coincidence, not just a children's saying or joke. The psychological meaning here is very deep. "We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are." Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, said: "It seems that time hasn’t been kind to him [Mr. Biden]. "I can only quote Freud - 'Nothing in life is more expensive than illness and stupidity." Andrei Turchak, leader of the main pro-Kremlin United Russia party, claimed Mr. Biden's remarks reflected "the US political marasmus and its leader's dementia." Relations between Washington and Moscow had deteriorated further in recent months over the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny last summer. However, the US and Russia have continued to work together on stopping nuclear proliferation, and the Afghanistan peace process. The White House later said Mr. Biden did not regret calling Mr. Putin a killer and would "not hold back in words or actions." Mr. Putin invited Mr. Biden to "continue our discussion" in a live broadcast event. He said it would be "interesting" for the people of Russia and the US to see.
The new crisis came as senior US officials were holding their first face-to-face meeting with their Chinese counterparts since Mr. Biden became president. US secretary of state Tony Blinken, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, were meeting China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Anchorage, Alaska for what were expected to be contentious talks. Tensions between Washington and Beijing remain high in the wake of a trade war and rows over the defense, technology, and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, two Canadians - Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig - detained by Beijing more than two years ago on suspicion of espionage will go before Chinese courts within days.