‘Haven’t presidents been killed?’: Putin compares the suspicious deaths of his political opponents to the assassinations of US presidents

President Donald Trump shakes Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand during a summit in Helsinki, Finland.

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President Donald Trump shakes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hand during a summit in Helsinki, Finland.
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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin dodged questions on a string of deaths that are suspected of being orchestrated by the Kremlin, during an interview on Fox News.
  • Putin, who is in his third six-year term, likened the murders of political dissidents to the assassinations of US presidents and civil rights leaders.
  • He also alluded to the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991 and admitted there would be “some side effects” while Russia was “maturing.”
  • Russia’s denials, whether it be in regards to its involvement in Syria’s civil war or its meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, have become relatively predictable to the intelligence community and has stoked bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin fended off questions on a string of deaths that are suspected to have been orchestrated by the Kremlin, during an interview on Fox News on Monday.

In the interview, Putin was asked why political dissidents and journalists, both domestic and abroad, were being jailed or found dead under suspicious circumstances.

In a high profile case in March, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a deadly nerve agent in the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the attack originated from Russian agents.

“I need to ask you, domestically – not internationally, domestically, inside Russia – why is it that so many of the people that oppose Vladimir Putin end up dead or close to it?,” Fox News Channel anchor Chris Wallace asked. “Why is it that so many people who were political enemies of Vladimir Putin are attacked?”

Putin suggested that “rivals” were not unique to him.

“Well, first of all, all of us have plenty of political rivals,” Putin said. “I’m pretty sure President Trump has plenty of political rivals.”

Wallace challenged Putin’s assertion: “But they don’t end up dead.”

Putin, who was recently reelected to a third six-year term in what critics described as a “sham election,” responded to Wallace by likening these suspicious deaths to the assassinations of US presidents and civil rights leaders.

“Well, not always – well, haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?,” Putin asked. “Have you forgotten about – well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King?”

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin

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MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

“What – and what happens to the clashes between police and, well, civil society, and some – several ethnic groups? Well, that’s something that happens on the US soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.”

Putin alluded to the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991 and admitted there would be “some side effects” while Russia was “maturing.” But the president denied his government sanctioned Skripal’s poisoning and became combative, likening it to accusations of Russia’s interference actions from the US intelligence community.

“We would like to get at least some sort of a document, evidence about it,” Putin said. “It’s the same thing as the accusations with meddling into the election process in America.”

“Maybe there are other reasons – reasons of death,” Putin added. “Well, maybe it’s the internal reasons within the United Kingdom, but nobody wants to look into the issue. No, we just see the ungrounded accusations.”

Russia’s constant denials, whether it be in regards to its involvement in Syria’s civil war or its meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, have become relatively predictable and has stoked bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill.

That anger was further fueled after Trump refused to back the US intelligence community’s assessment on Russia, and instead, railed against the FBI and his political opponents during his summit with Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

The meeting was held just three days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers who are suspected of interfering in the US presidential election.

Following Trump’s remarks at the press conference, several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, criticized what they believed was “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”