Russian president Vladimir Putin likened fired FBI chief James Comey to Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia in 2013, trolling the US on Thursday, during a live call-in show with the Russian nation.
Comey’s disclosure of leaking his conversations with US President Donald Trump, has made Comey eligible for political asylum in Russia, the Putin said.
“It looks weird when the chief of a security agency records his conversation with the commander-in-chief and then hands it over to media via his friend,” Putin said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “This is strange. What is the difference then between the FBI director and Mr. Snowden? He is not a head of the special services, but a human rights activist.”
Putin concluded that “by the way, if he (Comey) is subject to any sort of persecution in connection with this, we will be ready to give him political asylum in Russia. And he should know about this.”
He added that he was not familiar in detail with the testimony given by former FBI director Comey, but noted that Comey had given no evidence of “Russian meddling”.
In response, Putin said the US was constantly seeking to influence Russian elections by funding NGOs as part of its aspirations for global domination. “Turn a globe and point your finger anywhere, you will find American interests and interference there.”
“And what about constant US propaganda, constant US support of America-oriented non-government organisations by giving them money directly? Isn’t it an impact on our minds? Isn’t it an attempt to influence how we should behave during election campaigns? This continues year after year,” the Russian president pointed out.
He added that many heads of state around the world have complained about US meddling in their internal affairs, but were afraid to voice their concerns openly, fearing it would “spoil relations” with Washington. Putin added that Russia was not engaged in similar underground activity, but rather stated their positions openly and publicly.
The phone-in also included a video address from an American citizen from Arizona, a friend of Russia asking the Russian president for advice on how to fight the “racist Russophobia” in the US.
“I don’t think I have the right to give you any advice, but I want to thank you for your position, and we know that we have a lot of friends in the United States,” Putin answered.
Putin also spoke briefly about the staged protests in Moscow and other Russian cities on Monday, organised by an opposition politician with almost no support. He said they “use the difficulties we have for their own political PR” but sadly offered not solutions.
The US Senate has meanwhile voted to continue to punish Moscow for “interfering in the 2016 election” by approving a wide-ranging package of sanctions that target key sectors of Russia’s economy and individuals.
The Senate bill is the latest in several rounds of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Russia’s referendum in the Crimean Peninsula and its support to end Kiev’s hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
Putin argued that Russia had done nothing to warrant the Senate’s vote on more sanctions. He said it only highlighted domestic infighting in the United States and a policy of containing Russia. “It’s evidence of a continuing internal political struggle in the US,” Putin said.
Despite the sanctions, the Russian leader told his audience that the “crisis was over,” pointing at economic growth over the past nine months, low inflation and rising currency reserves.
He said lower oil prices had contributed more to Russia’s economic slowdown than sanctions.
During question time ordinary Russians expressed their concerns about their daily difficulties including low salaries, decrepit housing, failing health care and many social problems. Putin urged local officials to fix problems.