Putin Criticizes U.S. over Assange Arrest

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows the West has its own problems with democracy.

Putin was responding at a televised news conference to a request for comment on leaked diplomatic cables that suggested Russia is undemocratic and corrupt to the highest echelons of power.

"You think that the U.S. diplomatic service is a crystal clear source of information? Do you really think so?" Putin said, in a visibly upbeat mood.

Putin said that, if the West was democratic, then "why was Mr. Assange hidden in prison? Is this democracy?"

CBSNews.com Special Report: WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks CableGate Update Blog

He referred to a provincial Russian proverb that equates to "the pot calling the kettle black," in reference to criticism from the West.

Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.

Putin, who rules Russia in tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev but wields the most power, reacted with vitriol to the cables' depiction of Russia as a "virtual mafia state" in an interview with Larry King earlier this month.

He said an observation drawn by one U.S. diplomat of Putin playing "Batman" to Medvedev's "Robin" was arrogant, rude and unethical.

More on WikiLeaks:

WikiLeaks Distances from Hackers - Somewhat
WikiLeaks Supporters Wage Cyber War
Visa Disrupted in WikiLeaks Blowback
WikiLeaks Backers Claim MasterCard Attack
Sarah Palin: WikiLeaks Supporters Hacked Me
Twitter Suspends Account Organizing Support for WikiLeaks
Visa Suspends All Payments to WikiLeaks