MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday said the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared "political", accusing Britain of double standards over his extradition order to Sweden on sex crime charges.
Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London in a bid to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden, from where he fears he could be extradited on to the United States to face potential accusations of treason.
"They (the British judiciary) decided to extradite him. What is this? Of course it is double standards, that is clear," Putin told state-controlled English language network Russia Today in an interview whose transcript was released by the Kremlin.
"As far as I know, Ecuador asked Sweden for guarantees that Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the United States. It has received no such guarantees."
"Of course this leads one to think that this is a political case," Putin said.
Putin added: "We are always being told about the independence of the judicial system in Britain -- that it takes a decision and no-one can influence it."
The US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in late 2010 provided uncomfortable reading for Russian officials, notably a description of the country as a "mafia state".
But Russian state media has warmed to Assange as an alternative-thinking anti-Western crusader and Russia Today earlier this year broadcast a series of interviews Assange recorded with controversial world figures.
These included the leader of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah and the man who would later allow Assange sanctuary at the Ecuador embassy in London, Ecuador President Rafael Correa.