- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Kremlin late Wednesday recalled its ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, amid a full-blown “crisis” in relations with America.

The announcement from Moscow’s Embassy in Washington came just hours after President Biden labeled Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer,” an apparent reference to the alleged poisoning of key Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Mr. Putin’s hard-line tactics against other political rivals.

The move also came on the heels of a recent U.S. intelligence report that found Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the 2020 election, and Mr. Biden told ABC News in a lengthy interview Wednesday that Mr. Putin “will pay a price” for those operations.

Moscow’s reaction was swift.

“On March 20, Ambassador of Russia to the United States Anatoly Antonov is leaving for Moscow for consultations. During his meetings in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies, it is planned to discuss ways to rectify Russia-U.S. ties that are in crisis,” the Russian Embassy said in a statement. “The current situation is a result of the deliberate policy of Washington that during the past years was making steps to bring — in essence, intentionally — our bilateral interaction into a deadlock.”

Mr. Biden‘s most notable comment regarding Russia came when asked point-blank by ABC host George Stephanopoulos whether he believes Mr. Putin is a killer. 

“I do,” the president said

Mr. Biden also cited the recent SolarWinds hack which officials have pinned on Russia as an example of the “mischievous things” Moscow has done.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the comments and said they make clear Mr. Biden “doesn’t want to normalize relations” between the two nations.

The White House said it will be direct in its communications with Russia, including calling out malign behavior.

“We will speak out on areas where we have concerns, and it will certainly be, as the president said last night — certainly, the Russians will be held accountable for the actions that they have taken,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Mr. Biden also stressed that there are areas the U.S. can work together with Russia. The two countries, for example, recently agreed to extend a key nuclear weapons treaty that had been set to expire. Officials from the U.S and Russia also are meeting this week as part of a multinational push to save the sinking peace process in Afghanistan.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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