Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from India at an economic summit for developing countries, denied charges of Russian skulduggery in the U.S. presidential election, accused America of “spying on everyone and eavesdropping on everyone,” and warned Western powers to “do everything to minimize civilian casualties” in the battle for Mosul.
The latter statement is almost breathtaking in its hypocrisy, given the incredible civilian body count Russia is racking up in Syria. Putin was, in part, lashing out against proposed sanctions from the U.S. and U.K. over Russia’s airstrikes on Aleppo.
“We hope that our American partners, and in this case our French partners as well, will act selectively and do everything to minimize – and even better, to rule out – civilian casualties,” said Putin of the effort to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State, as reported by the UK Independent.
“We of course are not going to fan hysteria over this matter, like our partners in the West do, because we understand that we need to fight terrorism, and that there is no other way apart from active fighting,” Putin added.
In fact, the Independent notes that the Mosul operation began with a leaflet drop, warning civilians in the area to stay away from ISIS positions, and offering assurances that civilians would not be deliberately targeted. Also, the United Nations has promised the largest humanitarian operation in history for Mosul, after the Islamic State has been ejected.
Putin said sanctions against Russia would not “solve any concrete problem,” and told Western powers to “get lost,” in an interview that seems to have disappeared from the Kremlin’s website. He also jeered that sanctions “did not work well” against Iran, so they would not work against Russia.
Putin also rejected accusations that Russia has attempted to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. “I want to set everyone’s mind at rest, including our American friends and partners – we are not going to influence the U.S. election campaign and the answer is very simple – we don’t know what will be after the U.S. presidential elections,” he said.
Putin went further and called the accusations hypocritical, because U.S. intelligence is “spying on everyone and eavesdropping on everyone.”
According a report by UPI, Putin added that “Russia’s security works under strict guidelines while the NSA, or U.S. National Security Agency, does not.”
As he was making this charge, the lights flickered in the room, prompting Putin to joke, “Maybe I said something wrong.”
He said he looked forward to improved relations with the U.S. no matter who wins the election: “If our partners in the United States intend to work with us, we will. I hope that when the debate is over, this difficult period in the United State’s internal political life is over, there’ll be a chance to restore relations between Russia and the U.S.”
“Mrs Clinton chose her aggressive rhetoric and aggressive stance with regard to Russia, and Mr Trump, on the contrary, is calling for cooperation, at least against terrorism,” Putin added.
Reuters adds Putin has been demanding the end of existing sanctions against the Russian government and specific officials, plus compensation for money Moscow lost under those sanctions, before he will consider re-activating the plutonium-disposal program he halted earlier this month.