Putin: "If it is full democracy, then why have they hidden Mr. Assange in prison? That's what, democracy?"

Russia's Putin raps U.S. over leaked cables

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a regional conference of his ruling party United Russia in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, December 6, 2010.  REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool
By Gleb Bryanski  
MOSCOW | Thu Dec 9, 2010 11:49pm IST

(Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attacked the United States on Thursday over secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, saying the West had no right to preach to Russia about democracy.  

When asked about cables which cast him as Russia's "alpha-dog" ruler, Putin asked: "Do you think the American diplomatic service is a crystal clean source of information? Do you think so?"

He then criticised the West over the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who turned himself in to authorities in Britain this week after a warrant by a Swedish prosecutor who wants to question him about sexual misconduct accusations.

"If it is full democracy, then why have they hidden Mr. Assange in prison? That's what, democracy?" Putin said, in the strongest Russian criticism of the affair.

"So, you know, as they say in the countryside, some people's cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet. So I would like to shoot the puck back at our American colleagues," Putin said at a briefing with his French counterpart Francois Fillon.

The phrase is a colloquial term which is a Russian equivalent of "the pot calling the kettle black".

Leaked U.S. cables cast Putin as a ruler who allows an elite of corrupt officials and crooked spies to siphon off cash from the world's biggest energy producer.

PRESSURE ON WASHINGTON

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that the leaked cables showed the cynicism of U.S. diplomats whose cables cast him as the junior partner to Putin who had to get his decisions approved by his mentor.

But Putin's criticism ratchets up the pressure on the United States after one of the leaked cables said U.S Defense Secretary Robert Gates had observed on Feb. 8, 2010, that "Russian democracy has disappeared and the government is an oligarchy run by the security services".

That comment was cited in a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

French PM Fillon said at the joint briefing in Moscow that France needed no U.S. advice on how to deal with Russia.

"The French government does not need advice from the diplomats of any other countries about Russia," Fillon said through a Russian translator. "As to WikiLeaks, I will never comment about information that has been stolen."

During Fillon's visit to Russia, French engineer Alstom said it has secured contracts with a host of Russian firms, including Rushydro, Rosatom, Inter RAO, Mosenergo and Russian Technologies.

It did not give details of the size of the deals, though Putin said that French companies were Russia's preferred partners for work on global energy markets. "French companies are for us the preferred partners in work on global energy markets," Putin said. He gave no further details.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Steve Gutterman)