Russian President Vladimir Putin challenged President Joe Biden to a debate following a fracas over comments made by Biden earlier this week in agreeing that the Russian leader is a “killer.”
His comments come days after Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he agreed with this assertion that Putin is a “killer.” Biden said, “Yes, I do.”
The next day, on Wednesday, a Russian embassy spokesperson said that Moscow would be withdrawing its ambassador to the United States, although the reason for the recall was not disclosed.
After making the challenge, Putin said he would debate with Biden as early as Friday.
“I don’t want to put this off for long. I want to go the taiga this weekend to relax a little,” Putin told reporters. “So we could do it tomorrow or Monday. We are ready at any time convenient for the American side.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded by saying that discussion was unlikely to occur, saying Biden is scheduled to travel to Georgia on Friday. Psaki also reporters that Biden does not regret making the affirmative statement to Stephanopoulos’ “killer” question.
“I'll have to get back to you if that is something we’re entertaining. I would say that the president already had a conversation with President Putin,” she told reporters. “The president, of course, will be in Georgia tomorrow and quite busy,” Psaki added.
The Russian embassy in Washington D.C. told news outlets that its ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, would leave Saturday and would “discuss ways to rectify Russia-U.S. ties that are in crisis.”
The tit-for-tat comments between the two leaders came in the backdrop of a U.S. intelligence report that alleged Moscow engaged in efforts to spread disinformation to influence the 2020 election and undermine Biden’s campaign. The Kremlin denied the report.
The White House this week ordered sanctions against top Russian officials for the alleged poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is currently in a Russian penal colony.