putin interview NBC geneva biden
© NBC News/Associated Press
The Russian president was asked about his jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an interview last night ahead of his meeting with Biden in Switzerland on June 16, 2021
Vladimir Putin has accused the US of 'persecuting political opinions' for arresting the MAGA mob at the Capitol siege, ahead of his summit with Joe Biden on Wednesday.

The Russian president was asked about his jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an interview filmed in Moscow last week before his meeting with Biden in Switzerland.

And he replied by hitting back at the US, equating the arrest of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol with his treatment of Navalny.

He said: 'We have a saying: 'Don't be mad at the mirror if you are ugly,'" he said. "It has nothing to do with you personally. But if somebody blames us for something, what I say is, why don't you look at yourselves? You will see yourselves in the mirror, not us.'

'You are presenting it as dissent and intolerance toward dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently,' he told US broadcaster NBC News.

He then pointed at the January 6 MAGA raid on the Capitol, saying: 'Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? ... They came there with political demands.'

Putin also reiterated denials that the Kremlin was behind last year's poisoning of Navalny with a nerve agent that nearly killed him.

'We don't have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,' Putin claimed.

'Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?' Putin said, referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to climb through a window that led to the House floor.

Putin also sharply dismissed allegations that Russia is carrying out cyberattacks against the United States as baseless.

'Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It´s becoming farcical,' Putin said. 'We have been accused of all kinds of things - election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth - and not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations.'

In April, the United States announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and new sanctions connected to the so-called SolarWinds cyberattack in which several U.S. government branches experienced data breaches. U.S. officials blamed the Russian foreign intelligence service.

In May, Microsoft officials said the foreign intelligence service appeared to be linked to an attack on a company providing services to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Putin also laughed off Joe Biden's claim he's a 'killer' - heaping praise on Donald Trump before branding his successor a career politician.

He was asked by the NBC interviewer Keir Simmons, 'Mr President, are you a killer?'

Putin avoided directly answering, instead replying:
'Over my tenure, I've gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different calibre and fierceness, and none of it surprises me.'

'So as far as harsh rhetoric I think this is an overall expression of US culture. Of course in Hollywood, there are some underlying deep things in Hollywood - macho, which can be treated as cinematic art. But that's part of US political culture, it's considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here.'
Simmons pushed Putin further on the matter, saying: 'I don't think I heard you answer the question, a direct question, Mr President.'

Putin - who appeared to bristle at being pushed further, said:
'I did answer, I did answer. I'll add if you let me. I've heard dozens of such accusations, especially a period of some great events during our counter terrorism events in northern caucuses.

'When that happens, I'm always guided by the interests of the Russian people. The Russian state. In sentience of terms of who calls somebody who, in terms of labels, this is not something I worry about in the least.'
Simmons then reeled off a list of names of Putin critics who died in murky circumstances.

They included Alexander Litvinenko, killed by radiation poisoning in London in 2006, and Mikhail Lesin, who was murdered in Washington DC in 2015.

Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, said: 'Look, you know, I don't want to come across as being rude, but this looks like some kind of indigestion except that it's verbal indigestion. You've mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time for various reasons, at the hands of different individuals.'

Speaking of Lesin, he added: 'I regret to this day he is not with us - we found some of the other criminals who committed these crimes. They are in prison.

Meanwhile, Putin used the same interview to hail Donald Trump, while offering more lukewarm praise - and a backhanded compliment - when asked to share his thoughts on Joe Biden.

He told Simons:
'Well even now, I believe that former U.S. president Mr Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president.

'He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not.

'And, but he didn't come from the U.S. establishment. He had not been part of big-time politics before, and some like it, some don't like it but that is a fact.'
On the current president, Putin said: '(Biden) is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics.'

Putin added: 'That's a different kind of person, and it is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president.'

Comment: Damned with faint praise. Putin the diplomat.

Trump was dogged by accusations of his being too cozy to Russia, and in awe of their strongman leader.

Putin and Biden will meet in Geneva on Wednesday.

The White House has said Biden will bring up ransomware attacks emanating from Russia, Moscow's aggression against Ukraine, the jailing of dissidents and other issues that have irritated the relationship.

Last year Biden told his biographer, Evan Osnos, about meeting Putin in the Kremlin in 2011.

'I said, 'Mr Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul,'' Biden recalled.

'And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, 'We understand one another.' This is who this guy is!'

Biden, at the start of an eight-day visit to Europe this week, said: 'We're not seeking conflict with Russia.'

'We want a stable and predictable relationship.

'But I've been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.'

On the issue of recent ransomware attacks that the United States has traced to Russia, Putin denied any knowledge of the hackings and called on Biden to reach an agreement with him on cyberspace, NBC News said.

Putin also dismissed a report in the Washington Post this week that Russia was preparing to supply Iran with an advanced satellite that would enable it to track potential military targets across the Middle East.

'It's just fake news. At the very least, I don't know anything about this kind of thing,' Putin said.

'It's just nonsense garbage.'