VLADIMIR Putin has deflected criticism from President Joe Biden ahead of their summit this week, insisting: "Don't be mad at the mirror if you are ugly."
The Russian leader's rebuke of Biden came in a wide-ranging interview with NBC, in which Putin also accused the US of "targeting its citizens over their political opinions", pointing to the arrests of January 6th rioters.
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Putin's sit-down interview with the network was his first with a US media outlet in three years.
Relations between the US and Russia are at their lowest point in decades – a fact Biden and Putin have both publicly acknowledged in recent weeks.
Much of the fraying of relations can be attributed to a series of cyberattacks carried out on US interests over the last year, including the Colonial Pipeline shutdown and the SolarWinds hack.
Putin said any accusations the Kremlin was involved in the hacks were "farcical" and urged Washington to provide "proof" for the "unfounded claims."
The incumbent leader also discussed criticism recently leveled by Biden that Russia was contributing to global instability.
Adopting the Kremlin's time-tested strategy of deflection criticism by highlighting perceived US flaws, he accused the White House of doing the same in Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Biden has also repeatedly accused Putin of human rights violations, pointing to the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
However, Putin hit back in his interview with NBC, insisting his government isn't cracking down on internal dissent anymore than this US is currently doing.
He then pointed to the hundreds of arrests made in the wake of the January 6 riots, and the death of one rioter, Ashli Babbitt, as so-called proof the US also targets its own citizens for their political opinions.
"We have a saying: 'Don't be mad at the mirror if you are ugly,'" he said.
"It has nothing to do with you personally. But if somebody blames us for something, what I say is, why don't you look at yourselves? You will see yourselves in the mirror, not us."
Contrary to the Russian leader's claims, those arrested by the FBI after the insurrection have been charged a variety of criminal offenses, including trespassing and violent conduct, rather than for their political beliefs.
Still, he continued: "Did you order the assassination of the woman [Babbitt] who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?" he said.
"Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? And they didn't go there to steal a laptop. They came with political demands."
Elsewhere in the interview, Putin offered fond words for former President Donald Trump, who was accused throughout his four-year term of cozying up to the Russian leader.
"Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual. Otherwise, he would not have become US president," Putin said. "He is a colorful individual."
However, Putin added that there's a need for "predictability and stability" in Russia's relations with the United States.
"This is something we haven't seen in recent years," Trump said.
Biden and Putin are due to meet in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday.
The US President has remained tight-lipped on what he plans to discuss with Putin, though the recent spate of cyberattacks on American soil is thought to be top of Biden's agenda.
Speaking to the Russia-linked hacks, Putin denied all responsibility, insisting: "We have been accused of all kinds of things. Election interference, cyber attacks, and so on and so forth.
“And not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations.
"I'm surprised that we have not yet been accused of provoking the Black Lives Matter movement," he added.
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