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Biden team shuts down bizarre Putin suggestion of live debate over ‘killer’ comments: ‘He’s quite busy’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during the daily press briefing at the White House on 18 March 2021 in Washington, DC

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The White House on Thursday rebuffed Vladimir Putin’s demand to hold a public debate with president Joe Biden over his “killer” comment about the Russian president, saying he is “quite busy”.

The war of words between the leaders of the two countries began after President Biden, in an interview with ABC News, referred to his Russian counterpart as a “killer”. Mr Putin shrugged off the remarks by saying: “it takes one to know one.”

Mr Putin further invited Mr Biden for a live debate.

“I’ve just thought of this now,” he told a Russian state television reporter. “I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called. Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”

But the White House press secretary quickly rejected the invite, adding that Mr Biden has “no regrets” for his earlier remarks.

“We are confident that we can continue to look for ways where there’s a mutual interest,” said press secretary Jen Psaki. “​But the president is not going to hold back, clearly, when he has concerns, whether it is with words or actions.”

Earlier in an interview with ABC News, the US president was asked if he thought the Russian leader was “a killer”. Mr Biden responded: “Yes, I do”.

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The comments drew sharp reaction from Russia as Mr Putin went on state television to flip Mr Biden’s comments. “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,” he said.

He further pointed at the US atomic bombing of Japan during the Second World War, as well as its history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans, noting the painful legacies weighing on the United States.

“Otherwise, where would the Black Lives [Matter] movement come from?” he said, citing racial injustice and the killing of African Americans.

A Kremlin spokesperson also rebuked the remarks by the US President and suggested that such comments were without historical precedent. “It shows he definitely doesn’t want to build relations with our country,” said spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. “And things will flow from this.”

The country has also recalled its US ambassador in protest.

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