President Vladimir Putin retorted on Thursday that it takes one to know one after US President Joe Biden said he thought the Russian leader was a killer and already poor relations between Moscow and Washington sank to a new post-Cold War low.
Putin was speaking on television after Biden, in an ABC News interview that prompted Russia to recall its Washington ambassador for consultations a day earlier, said "I do" when asked if he believed Putin was a killer.
Biden also described Putin as having no soul, and said he would pay a price for alleged Russian meddling in the November 2020 US presidential election, something the Kremlin denies.
Russia is preparing to be hit by a new round of US sanctions in the coming days over that alleged meddling as well as over an alleged hack. In a highly unusual move following Biden's interview, Moscow recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations.
Putin, responding to Biden's characterisation of him, said he knew the US leader personally, and, in an apparent reference to Biden's age (78), said he sincerely wished him good health.
Suggesting Biden was hypocritical in his remarks, Putin said that every state had to contend with "bloody events" and added Biden was accusing the Russian leader of something he was guilty of himself.
"I remember in my childhood, 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," Putin said.
"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.
'Really bad remarks'
Shortly before Putin's remarks, his spokesman said Biden's comments showed he had no interest in fixing ties with Moscow, which are strained by everything from Syria to Ukraine to Russia's jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
Biden was quick to extend a key nuclear arms pact with Russia after he took office in January. But his administration has said it will take a tougher line with Moscow than Washington did during Donald Trump's term in office, and engage only when there is a tangible benefit for the United States.
"These are really bad remarks by the US president. He has clearly shown that he doesn't want to improve relations with our country," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said. "We will now proceed from that."
"Of course, this hasn't happened before in history," Peskov told reporters, commenting on Biden's remarks.
Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy chairman of parliament's upper house, said Moscow's recall of its ambassador was the only reasonable step to take in the circumstances.
"I suspect it will not be the last one if no explanation or apology follows from the American side," Kosachyov said in a Facebook post.
"This kind of assessment (by Biden) is not allowed from the mouth of a statesman of such a rank," he added, calling it a watershed moment in US-Russia ties.