President Vladimir Putin says Russia is willing to work with whomever is officially declared the next president of the United States, but that he won't offer congratulations until the winner is formally decided or a candidate concedes.
Putin's remarks broadcast Sunday on state television reiterate earlier Kremlin comments on why Putin had not congratulated Joe Biden after major news organisations called him president-elect, as did many other world leaders.
"We are just waiting for the end of the internal political confrontation," Putin said, referring to Republican challenges to the vote count.
"We will work with any person who will be given the trust of the American people. But who will be given this trust? It must either be indicated by political custom when one of the parties recognises the victory of the other, or the final results of the elections are summed up in a legitimate, legal way," he said.
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Putin said that the decision to not congratulate Biden is "a formality" with no ulterior motives, the Daily Mail reported.
He also said that he believes relations between the US and Russia have been "ruined".
When Trump won in 2016, Putin was prompt in offering congratulations — but Trump's challenger in that election, Hillary Clinton, also conceded the day after the vote.
Just days after the election was called in Biden's favour, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that this election is different.
"Obviously, you can see that certain legal procedures are coming there, which were announced by the incumbent president — therefore this situation is different, so we consider it correct to wait for the official announcement," he said.
Peskov said that when the time comes, congratulations from Putin would come with all the expected protocol.
"I remind you that Vladimir Putin said more than once that he will respect any choice of American people, and will be ready to work with any chosen president of the United States," he said.