US President Joe Biden has no regrets after calling Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “killer,” the White House said Thursday.

“The president gave a direct answer to a direct question,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

She was referring to an answer Biden gave during an interview that aired in full on Wednesday in which he was asked if he thought Putin was “a killer.”

“Mhmm. I do,” Biden said, further warning the Russian leader will “pay a price” after US intelligence determined Putin sanctioned government activities aimed at bolstering former US President Donald Trump’s electoral prospects in November’s White House race.

Russia has denied any election meddling.

The comments prompted a strong response from the Kremlin, which retaliated by recalling its US envoy. Putin himself responded using a Russian proverb that loosely translates to “takes one to know one.”

“To this day, African Americans face injustice and extermination. And all this goes through history, to this day accompanies the life of the United States,” Putin said, also pointing to the genocide of Native Americans as the US expanded territorially west.

Psaki dismissed the criticism, saying Biden “believes that one of the greatest attributes of the United States is our honest self-reflection.”

“And our constant striving for progress, and there’s always more work to do as he’s stated himself,” she said.

Psaki dismissed suggestions that the US might withdraw its ambassador in response to Russia doing so because Biden believes diplomacy “should be our objective as we pursue all relationships, even with our adversaries.”

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