Vladimir Putin has joked that the fired FBI director James Comey is welcome to seek asylum in Russia.
Speaking in his annual question and answer session in Moscow, the Russian President said it was "very strange" that the FBI official had leaked details of conversations with Donald Trump, and likened his actions to those of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
"If there is some kind of persecution, we would be ready to offer political asylum to Mr Comey if he is persecuted in the US", Mr Putin told a live audience.
Comparing Mr Comey to Mr Snowden, he said the former FBI director's decision to leak details of his conversations with Mr Trump to the media had placed him in a vulnerable position and meant he had behaved more like an activist than an FBI chief.
The former FBI director was sacked by Donald Trump last month over what the US President said were issues relating to the investigation over alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election. Mr Trump's decision to fire the man leading the probe into whether there was any collusion between his team and Moscow was widely condemned.
Earlier this month Mr Comey testified under oath in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee and claimed Mr Trump had suggested he drop an investigation into alleged links between Russia and Michael Flynn, the President's former national security adviser who was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had misled senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, over the nature of his dealings with Moscow representatives.
During the question and answer session, Mr Putin said he did not consider the US to be an enemy of Russia and claimed he wanted a "constructive dialogue" with Washington.
He cited nuclear non-proliferation, fighting poverty and tackling climate change as areas where the two countries could co-operate, but said any warming in relations would depend on the US.
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