Putin: Russia ready to grant asylum to former FBI Director James Comey
President Vladimir Putin says Russia is ready to grant James Comey asylum, and that the former FBI director "should be aware of that." He went on to question the difference between Comey and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"[Comey] suddenly said he recorded a conversation with Trump, and then handed the tape over to the media, which is strange," Putin said during his annual Q&A session on Thursday, noting that the leak put Comey in a vulnerable position.
"What's the difference between him and Mr [Edward] Snowden then? He’s a human rights activist then, not an intelligence chief," Putin said.
"At any rate, if this entails some kind of prosecutions against him [Comey], we are ready to grant him asylum in Russia. He should be aware of that," he added.
‘No proof Russia meddled in US election’
Putin commented on the congressional testimony made by former FBI Director James Comey, who accused Russia of interfering in the US election.
“The first thing that attracted my attention was that the ex-FBI director said that he believes that there was Russian meddling in the electoral process [in the US], but at the same time provided no proof of that,” he said.
The president noted that, according to Comey, there was no interference by Russia in the vote count during last year’s election, saying: “Well, thank God, at least that, it’s good enough.”
The president said Russia’s influence on American’s minds was no greater than that of America, which sponsors NGOs worldwide with a goal to influence countries they work in.
"Take a globe, spin it and point your finger at any spot, there’s surely American interests and interference there," he told the audience. "I know it from my conversations with almost every national leader. They just don’t want to spoil relations with the Americans."
'Russians don't view America as an enemy'
Putin went on to state that Russia does not see the US as an enemy, as the two countries were allies in World War II.
He also reiterated his view that the anti-Russian sentiment in the US comes from internal political strife in America.
"The Russophobia currently evolving in the United States – we can see it and we believe that this is the outcome of a spiraling domestic struggle for power."
The president said Russia has “many friends” in the US, although “media hysteria” has taken its toll on bilateral relations. Overall, Moscow believes US-Russia relations will return to normal.
Putin also said Moscow is determined to re-engage with Washington on several pressing international issues, including nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, combatting poverty and climate change. He stressed political bickering between the world powers will not help in this regard.
He mentioned the 2015 landmark Iran nuclear deal as "a positive example of our cooperation" with Washington.
"This means we can negotiate and work together. The Syrian issue, the Middle East issue – it’s obvious to everyone that nothing will be achieved without our constructive dialogue," Putin said.