Putin Hails Biden After Russian Senator Questions U.S. Leader’s Fitness

Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the door on state-media speculation that his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden was too old to go toe-to-toe with him after the two met Wednesday for their first summit.

“The image of President Biden that our, and even American, media present has nothing to do with reality,” Putin said in response to a Russian senator’s question if the U.S. president was suffering from what she called “dementia.”

“Biden’s a professional, you have to be very attentive with him so as not to miss anything. He doesn’t let anything get by, I assure you,” Putin, 68, said in televised comments.

Russian media have been questioning the 78-year-old U.S. president’s mental capacity at least since he agreed with an interviewer in March that Putin is a “killer.” During coverage of the summit in Switzerland, the country’s main 24-hour news channel repeatedly observed that while Putin spoke from memory, Biden had note cards.

“We all do that,” Putin said Thursday in his colleague’s defense.

The critical coverage didn’t jibe with both leaders’ upbeat assessment of their meeting, which they credited with helping set guardrails and ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers even if concrete agreements were lacking.

Putin was asked the question by Maria Lvova-Belova, a 36-year-old who has been a member of the Federation Council from the ruling party for less than a year, at a graduation ceremony for civil servants that he attended via video link. Such meetings are often scripted by the Kremlin.

Despite the warm words for Biden, Putin showed his sharp elbows with a dig at White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She’s been a target of official Russian scorn since she was the State Department’s spokeswoman in 2014 at the start of the Ukraine conflict.

“His press secretary is a young, educated, beautiful woman who’s always mixing things up,” Putin said. Biden, on the other hand, is “collected, knows what he wants to achieve and does it adroitly,” Putin said.

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