Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has hit back at the United States after cables released by WikiLeaks described the US defence secretary as saying that Russian democracy was in retreat.
Putin said defence secretary Robert Gates was “deeply misled” and warned US officials not to “interfere” in Russia’s internal politics, according to the transcript of an interview with CNN’s Larry King Live.
The whistle-blower website WikiLeaks has released a flood of confidential US memos in recent days that detail controversial diplomatic incidents and include indiscreet remarks from world leaders.
One cable from February of this year said Mr Gates had “observed that Russian democracy has disappeared and the government was an oligarchy run by the security services.”
Others have US diplomats referring to Russia as a “virtual mafia state” and saying that President Dmitry Medvedev plays “Robin” to Mr Putin’s “Batman.”
Mr Putin rejected the allegations and pointed out that in past US presidential elections the winner received fewer popular votes but emerged victorious because of the Electoral College system.
“When we are talking with our American friends and tell them there are systemic problems in this regard, we can hear from them: ‘Don’t interfere with our affairs. This is our tradition and it’s going to continue like that.’
“We are not interfering,” Mr Putin said. “But to our colleagues, I would also like to advise you, don’t interfere either (with) the sovereign choice of the Russian people.”
He went on to say he would make a “concerted decision” with Mr Medvedev about whether to seek a return to the presidency in 2012 elections, saying: “We’ll see. There is still quite time before the elections take place.”
As to the Batman and Robin comparison, Mr Putin said it was “aimed to slander one of us.”
“This is about our interaction, which is an important factor of the domestic policies in this country,” he said.
“But to be honest with you, we didn’t suspect that this would be done with such arrogance, with such a push and, you know, being so unethically done.”
The United States has repeatedly condemned the leak of the documents, calling it a “criminal” act that endangered lives and threatened its national security.