Putin scathing over arrest of WikiLeaks founder Assange

Fri, Dec 10, 2010, 00:00

MOSCOW – Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin said yesterday that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange showed the West had its own problems with democracy.

Mr Putin was responding at a news conference to a request for comment on leaked diplomatic cables that suggested Russia was undemocratic and corrupt up to the highest echelons of power.

“You think that the US diplomatic service is a crystal clear source of information? Do you really think so?” Mr Putin said, in a visibly upbeat mood.

If the West was democratic, he asked, then “why was Mr Assange hidden in prison? Is this democracy?”

In reference to criticism from the West he referred to a Russian proverb that is equivalent to “the pot calling the kettle black”.

Mr Putin, who rules Russia in tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev but wields most power, reacted angrily to the cables’ depiction of Russia as a “virtual mafia state” in a US TV interview earlier this month.

He said an observation that Mr Putin was Batman to Mr Medvedev’s Robin was arrogant, rude and unethical. – (AP)