Russian President Vladimir Putin joked on Thursday that if former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey suffers persecution because of his falling-out with US President Donald Trump, Russia is ready to grant him asylum.
He continued: "That means he is not the leader of the security services, but a human-rights defender".
Regardless, Putin's arms, at least rhetorically, are wide open as he said if Comey were to face political persecution, Russian Federation "is ready to accept him too". "And he should know about this".
Speaking on his annual Direct Line program, in which he answers screened questions from viewers all over Russian Federation live on all major state TV channels, Putin weighed in on the rift between Comey and U.S. President Donald Trump.
"There's a thin amount of evidence [of Russian hacking]", Stone said.
By phrasing a question uniquely constructed for these unusual times, Putin put a new spin on the ongoing saga over Russia's tampering in the USA election, links between President Trump's inner circle with Russian Federation - and allegations that the president tried to stop at least one line of inquiry.
"[Comey] said he'd written down his conversation with President [Trump] and handed it to the media through a friend of his", Putin said, according to a translation by Radio Free Europe. He said: "Just take a globe, spin it and poke your finger into it at any place - there are American interests there, and, for sure, they're involved there".
"And what about constant USA propaganda, constant US support of America-oriented non-government organizations by giving them money directly?" Isn't it an impact on our minds?
The president said Russian Federation has "many friends" in the USA, although "media hysteria" has taken its toll on bilateral relations. "Furthermore, twice in history, as you probably know, when we faced the most hard times, we united our efforts, we were allies in the two world wars", Putin said in response to the question. Asked if he would be willing for dialogue with the opposition, Putin said he would talk to people who really wanted to improve people's lives, but not those who "use the difficulties we have for their own political PR". "We have our opinion, we say it openly, but it's not some kind of underground sabotage activity", Putin said.
"By the way, if he is subject to any sort of persecution in connection with this, we will be ready to give him political asylum in Russian Federation".
He said Moscow and Washington could cooperate in efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and pool efforts to tackle the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.