US President Joe Biden has labelled Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “killer” who is devoid of a human soul and will “pay a price” for his efforts to undermine the 2020 US election.
His explosive interview with ABC News comes after a US intelligence report bolstered longstanding allegations that Mr Putin was behind Moscow’s efforts to swing the presidential election to Donald Trump.
The report concluded that Moscow sought to spread misleading or unsubstantiated claims against Mr Biden “to US media organisations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former president Trump and his administration”.
All the while, Mr Putin was “aware and probably directed” the misinformation campaign.
“He will pay a price,” Mr Biden told ABC News.
Asked what the consequences would come, Mr Biden said: “You’ll see shortly.”
“We had a long talk, he and I … 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.’”
“The most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience … is just know the other guy,” Mr Biden said.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had called its ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, back to Moscow to discuss the future of Russia’s relationship with the US.
The new US administration has been in office for nearly two months, and “this is a good reason to assess what the Biden team succeeds in doing and what it does not”, it said.
The move was designed to ensure bilateral ties did not degrade irreparably, the ministry said.
Following the release of the intelligence report, which Russia believes has “absolutely no foundation and evidence”, the Kremlin warned that further sanctions would harm US-Russia relations.
But Mr Biden wasn’t holding back.
He spoke about meeting Mr Putin, during which he recalled telling him that he did not “have a soul”.
“I wasn’t being a wise guy,” Mr Biden said. “He looked back at me and said, ‘We understand each other’.”
Asked if he thought Mr Putin was a killer, Mr Biden responded: “I do.”
In 2017, then-president Mr Trump was asked a similar question by Fox News, to which he responded “there are a lot of killers”.
“You think our country’s so innocent?” Mr Trump said at the time.
In another portion of Mr Biden’s interview with ABC News, he noted there were issues when it was in his and Mr Biden’s “mutual interest to work together”, such as renewing the START nuclear agreement, adding that the two leaders have a known history.