Vladimir Putin has ridiculed allegations of Russian meddling in US elections, accusing the Democrats of trying to shift blame for their defeat and likening the accusations against Moscow to anti-Semitism.
Facing questions from NBC’s Megyn Kelly, who moderated a panel discussion at St Petersburg’s economic forum, the Russian president said claims of interference in the US election contained “nothing concrete, only assumptions”.
Asked about the “fingerprints” – IP addresses allegedly belonging to Russian hackers – he said those could have been rigged and would not stand as credible evidence.
“What fingerprints? Hoof prints? Horn prints? Technology experts can invent anything and put the blame on anyone.”
US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party emails, helping Donald Trump’s election victory, and congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia have broken the Kremlin’s hopes for a detente with Washington.
“It reminds me of anti-Semitism,” Mr Putin said. “A dumb man who can’t do anything would blame the Jews for everything.”
He said the allegations of Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee overshadow the fact that the leaked emails were genuine and revealed unpleasant truths.
“It was true information, was it so important who leaked it?” he said. “It was necessary to apologise to the people and vow not to make such mistakes in the future.”
He blamed the Democrats for the failure to acknowledge their mistakes in the campaign, and “taking internal US political squabbles into international arena”.
“The problem isn’t us, the problem is inside US politics,” he said. “Trump’s team was more efficient during the election campaign.”
He added that while watching the US campaign unfold, he would sometimes think Mr Trump was going “over the top”.
“But it turned out that he was right,” Mr Putin said. “He found the right approach to those groups of the population, to those voters whom he targeted. They came to the polls and voted for him, and the other team miscalculated.”
Mr Putin scoffed at the US focus on the Russian ambassador’s contacts with members of Mr Trump’s team, saying the envoy was just doing his job.
Sergei Kislyak’s meetings with members of the Trump team have been a focus of the congressional investigation.
Mr Putin insisted it was perfectly normal for Mr Kislyak to try to establish contacts and discuss future ties, adding that he had not discussed specifics.
“What else the ambassador is supposed to do? He’s paid for holding meetings, discussing current affairs. Are you nuts?”