Putin jokes could offer asylum to ex-FBI chief Comey

Russian President Vladimir Putin has questioned the conduct of ex-FBI chief James Comey, comparing him to whistleblower Edward Snowden while joking that Russia could offer him asylum (AFP Photo/Mikhail KLIMENTIEV) (Sputnik/AFP)

Moscow (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday questioned the conduct of ex-FBI chief James Comey, comparing him to whistleblower Edward Snowden and joking that Russia could offer him asylum.

Speaking at his annual call-in with Russian citizens, Putin, a former KGB officer, said he found Comey's behaviour strange for a security official, after Comey leaked details of his meetings with Trump.

"He said suddenly that he had recorded the conversation with the president and then passed it to the media through his friend. Now that sounds very strange," Putin said.

"When the head of a security service records a conversation with the commander-in-chief and passes it to the media... then how is the FBI director different from Mr. Snowden?

"Then he's not head of a security service, he's a rights activist who defends a certain position. Speaking of which, if he is persecuted, we would be ready to offer him asylum in Russia. He should know this."

Putin granted asylum to Snowden after he leaked details of US surveillance programmes and was stranded in Moscow after his passport was cancelled en route to South America.

Comey had been leading an FBI investigation into Trump aides and their contacts with the Russian government, which US intelligence agencies believe could have led to collusion to sway the 2016 election in Trump's favour.

After being fired by Trump, Comey leaked details of the series of meetings with the president, in which Trump allegedly asked for Comey's "loyalty" and suggested the investigation be shelved.

Putin on Thursday again dismissed allegations that Russia meddled in the US vote, instead accusing Washington of doing precisely that around the world.

"Constant American propaganda, constant feeding of US-oriented NGOs... Is that not influencing our minds? Is that not an attempt to influence how we should act during our campaign?" Putin said.

"Take the globe, spin it, point a finger, and you'll find American interests there, and you'll definitely find their meddling," he added.

"What do they want, that everyone just bows their heads?" he asked of the United States.

"We have an opinion, we openly voice it. These aren't some kind of covert underground actions."