Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
Moscow has reacted angrily after U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer” devoid of a human soul during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, March 17. In a diplomatic protest after the interview aired, the Kremlin recalled its U.S. ambassador, Anatoly Antonov. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on March 18 that “there hasn’t been anything like this in history.” He said it was clear that Biden “definitely does not want to improve relations” with Russia and that the relationship between the two countries is “very bad.” When asked how it can affect relations, Peskov said “it is absolutely clear how,” but refused to elaborate.
Putin himself weighed in later that day facetiously wishing Biden “good health” adding “It takes one to know one”.
During that interview, Biden said Putin “will pay a price” for his efforts to undermine the 2020 US election following a landmark American intelligence assessment that found the Russian government meddled in the 2020 election with the aim of “denigrating” Biden’s candidacy. The report is the most comprehensive assessment of foreign threats to the 2020 elections to date, detailing extensive influence operations by US adversaries that sought to undermine confidence in the democratic process, in addition to targeting specific presidential candidates.
When interviewer Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he thought Putin was “a killer,” the President said, “Mhmm. I do.” Biden also confirmed that, some years ago, he was alone with Putin in his office, when he brought up the topic of Putin’s lack of a human soul. “I said, ‘I looked in your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.” The remark was a reference to George W. Bush’s 2001 assessment of Putin, when the former U.S. president said that “I looked the man in the eye” and “was able to get a sense of his soul.” Biden noted that during his conversation, Putin looked back and said, “We understand each other.”
During a press conference March 18, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had no regrets about his comments saying, “The president gave a direct answer to a direct question.” When pressed on whether the “killer” language was constructive for the US-Russia relationship, Psaki declined to say. “President Biden has known President Putin for a long time, they’ve both been on the global stage for a long time worked through many iterations of a relationship between the United States and Russia. And he believes we can continue to do that,” she said. The U.S., Psaki added, is confident it can work with Russia on areas of “mutual national interests,” however, “The president is not going to hold back, clearly, when he has concerns, whether it is with words or actions.”
Frankly speaking, Biden is absolutely right. Putin is a killer, what’s more a mass murderer. A former colonel of the KGB, a state terrorist organization masquerading as a security service, Putin began his killing spree even before becoming president. In September 1999, while prime minister, Putin clandestinely organized a series of explosions that hit four apartment blocks in the Russian cities of Buynaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk killing more than 300, and injuring more than 1000, thereby spreading a wave of fear across the country. He succeeded in laying the blame on Chechen separatists, presenting himself as a tough guy who would bring law and order to the country and started the Second Chechen War. This greatly enhanced his popularity.
Then there are the killings of Putin’s critics:
• Sergei Yushenkov, 2003: Former army colonel who was gathering evidence to prove that the Putin government was behind one of the apartment bombings in 1999.
• Alexander Litvinenko, 2006: Former KGB agent who died three weeks after drinking a cup of tea laced with deadly polonium-210 at a London hotel. A British inquiry found that Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were acting on orders that had “probably been approved by President Putin.”
• Anna Politkovskaya, 2006: A Russian reporter for Novaya Gazeta whose book, “Putin’s Russia,” accused the Kremlin leader of turning the country into a police state. She was shot at point-blank range in an elevator in her building.
• Natalia Estemirova, 2009: Journalist who investigated abductions and murders that had become commonplace in Chechnya. Estemirova was kidnapped outside her home, shot several times – including a point-blank shot in the head – and dumped in the nearby woods. Nobody has been convicted of her murder.
• Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, 2009: Markelov was a human rights lawyer known for representing Chechen civilians in human rights cases again the Russian military. He was shot by a masked gunman near the Kremlin. Baburova, also a journalist from Novaya Gazeta, was fatally shot as she tried to help him.
• Boris Berezovsky, 2013: A self-styled tycoon who become a fixture in Yeltsin’s inner circle, Berezovsky has a falling out with Putin which led to his self-exile in the United Kingdom, where he vowed to bring down the president. Berezovsky was found dead inside a locked bathroom at his home in the United Kingdom, a noose around his neck, in what was at first deemed a suicide. However, the coroner’s office could not determine the cause of death.
• Boris Nemtsov, 2015: Initially a supporter of Putin, he grew increasingly critical as Putin rolled back civil liberties and was eventually pushed to the margins of Russian political life. In Feb. 2015, just hours after urging the public to join a march against Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine, Nemtsov was shot four times in the back by an unknown assailant within view of the Kremlin.
Then, of course, there was the poisoning of the Skripals, and Alexei Navalny, all of whom managed to survive, and the numerous wars Putin has initiated:
• Second Chechen War: Casualty estimates vary, some in the tens of thousands, some even in the hundreds of thousands.
• 2008 Georgian War: Deaths estimated at close to 1,000.
• Invasion of Donbas, 2014 – Present: An estimated 13,000 deaths.
Yes. Putin is a killer. And, after four years of Donald Trump fawning over the Russian dictator like a lost puppy – even to the point of taking his word over that of his own intelligence agencies, it is encouraging to see an American president calling it like it is. Not only is Vladimir Putin a killer, he represents the biggest threat to world peace and security that exists. That is a fact that must be acknowledged.