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Kremlin demands apology from Fox News over Putin 'killer' question to Trump

Moscow has decried comments made by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, in which he labeled Vladimir Putin 'a killer' during an interview with Donald Trump. The US president had repeatedly reiterated his respect for Putin.

The Kremlin on Monday demanded an apology from US television channel Fox News over what it said were "unacceptable and insulting" comments by presenter Bill O'Reilly about Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an interview with US President Donald Trump.

"We consider such words from a Fox News correspondent unacceptable and offensive," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "To be honest we would prefer to receive an apology addressed to the president from such a respected television company."

On Sunday, O'Reilly repeatedly described Putin as a "killer" as he pressed Trump to explain why he respected a man with alleged links to extrajudicial killings of journalists and dissidents.

"We've got a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump answered, adding "take a look at what we've done too. We've made a lot of mistakes." 

When asked of Trump's response, Peskov said "in this case I would prefer to leave this without comment."

Fox News and O'Reilly have so far not responded to the Kremlin's remarks.

Asked later on Sunday to clarify his comments, Trump told Westwood One Sports Radio: "Well, I don't have to clarify it. The question was do you respect him - he's a head of a major country."

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Republicans reject US-Russia comparisons

Trump's comments, which were broadcast ahead of the Super Bowl, irritated a number of congressional Republicans, who swiftly dismissed any equivalence between the US and Russia.

Speaking to CNN, Mitch McConnel, the Senate leader, said of Putin: "He is a former KGB agent (and) a thug."

However, Vice President Mike Pence later told NBC that Trump would not "let semantics or the arguments of the past get in the way of exploring the ability to work together with Russia."

Trump's opinions and discourse on Putin have been closely scrutinized after US intelligence agencies accused Moscow of sponsoring hackers who tried to sway the outcome of the presidential election in the Republican's favor.

dm/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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