The Slatest

Watch NBC Journalist Ask Putin: “Mr. President, Are You a Killer?”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the launching ceremony of the Gazprom’s Amur Gas Processing Plant, via a video conference, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on June 9, 2021.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the launching ceremony of the Gazprom’s Amur Gas Processing Plant, via a video conference, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on June 9, 2021. SERGEI ILYIN/Getty Images

NBC News has released a few excerpts from a sit-down interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin that included the question, “Are you a killer?” During the interview, which is scheduled to air Monday, journalist Keir Simmons asked Putin, “The late John McCain in Congress called you a killer. When President Trump was asked, was told that you are a killer, he didn’t deny it. When President Biden was asked whether he believes you are a killer, he said, ‘I do’. Mr President, are you a killer?”

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Putin laughed but didn’t quite say no. The Russian president didn’t really answer the question, only saying he had heard lots of these types of accusations during his tenure, “none of it surprises me,” he added. Putin got a bit sociological about the question, saying that the “harsh rhetoric” was “an expression of overall U.S. culture” and he went on to blame Hollywood. “There are some underlying deep things in Hollywood—macho—which can be treated as cinematic art, but that is part of U.S. political culture, where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here.”

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Simmons pushed back, saying he didn’t quite hear Putin deny the allegation and went on to name several of the Russian president’s opponents who have been killed in recent years. Putin was none too happy, and he made his feelings clear. “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,” he said.

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Putin also recognized that the relationship between Washington and Moscow “has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” but he expressed optimism he can work with President Joe Biden ahead of their upcoming summit next week. “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,” Putin said, characterizing the former president as a “colorful individual.” Biden, on the other hand, is “radically different” because he is a career politician. “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,” he said.

Biden and Putin will be meeting Wednesday in Switzerland and the U.S. president will hold a news conference by himself afterward. “A solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting—both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns,” a White House official said Saturday. That will be a contrast from three years ago, when Trump and Putin held a joint news conference after their meeting in Finland.

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