MOSCOW, Dec. 10, 2010 -- The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for sexual misconduct illustrates the hypocrisy of the West about democracy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says.
In the strongest comments to come out of Russia in the latest WikiLeaks saga, Putin also took aim at the U.S. for the cables, some of which had derided Russia a "mafia state."
Assange's arrest in London earlier this week indicated that the West isn't as democratic as it thinks it is, Putin suggested.
"If there is democracy, it must be a full one. Why did they jail Mr. Assange? Is that democracy?" Putin said at a news conference Thursday. "You know what our villagers say: while someone's cow is mooing, yours better be silent." The Russian expression is loosely equivalent to the pot calling the kettle black.
"So I would like to shoot the puck back at our American colleagues," said Putin.
The prime minister also took a shot at the accuracy of the diplomatic observations in the classified cables.
"Do you yourself think that the U.S. diplomatic service is a crystal clear source of information?" Putin asked.
One of the released cables from the U.S. embassy in Paris quoted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saying "Russian democracy has disappeared and the government is an oligarchy run by the security services."
Russia has said the release of the cables -- which called Putin an "alpha dog" -- would not affect relations with the U.S. But Putin and others have criticized them, with President Dmitry Medvedev last week saying they illustrate the "cynicism" of American diplomacy.
Medvedev, widely viewed as the junior partner in Russia's ruling tandem, was described in the cables as the Robin to Putin's Batman.
On Thursday, Russia called on NATO to explain a recently released cable that showed NATO was drawing up plans to defend Baltic countries from a Russian attack.
"With one hand, NATO seeks agreement with us on joint partnership, and with the other, it makes a decision that it needs to defend," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. "So when is NATO more sincere?"
"We have asked these questions and are expecting answers to them. We think we are entitled to that," Larvrov added.
Putin Suggests West Hypocritical Over Wikileaks
Also Thursday, an anonymous Kremlin official told Russian media that perhaps Assange should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
"Public and non-governmental organizations should think of how to help him," the source said, according to the Interfax news agency. "Maybe, nominate him as a Nobel Prize laureate."