Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows the West has its own problems with democracy.
Putin was responding at a televised news conference to a request for comments on leaked diplomatic cables that suggested Russia is undemocratic and corrupt right 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?” Putin said, in a visibly upbeat mood.
Putin said that, if the West was democratic, then “why was Mr Assange hidden in prison? Is this democracy?”
He referred to a provincial Russian proverb that equates to ‘the pot calling the kettle black’, in reference to criticism from the West.
Assange is detained in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.
Putin, who rules Russia in tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev but wields the most power, reacted with vitriol to the cables’ depiction of Russia as a “virtual mafia state” in an interview with US TV host Larry King earlier this month.
He said an observation drawn by one US diplomat of Putin playing ‘Batman’ to Medvedev’s ‘Robin’ was arrogant, rude and unethical.