Russian President Vladimir Putin has slammed persisting US allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, saying that even if some Russian nationals had been involved in the alleged meddling, they would not have represented Moscow.
“Why have you decided the Russian authorities, myself included, gave anybody permission to do this?” Putin asked in an interview with the US-based NBC News released on Saturday.
Putin’s remarks came weeks after US Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russia-based companies for allegedly backing Trump’s campaign, maligning his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and engaging in other alleged election meddling attempts.
Mueller is tasked with conducting a wide-ranging probe to determine whether the campaign of US President Donald Trump colluded with Moscow to win the presidential race in November 2016.
“So what if they’re Russians?” Putin said of the Russian nationals indicted by Mueller. “There are 146 million Russians. So what?… I don’t care. I couldn’t care less… They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.”
Putin underlined that he has yet to see any evidence for the accusations. “We in Russia cannot prosecute anyone as long as they have not violated Russian law… At least send us a piece of paper… Give us a document. Give us an official request. And we’ll take a look at it,” Putin said.
The Russian leader also rejected assessments by top US spy agencies last year concluding that Putin had personally directed a huge intelligence effort to influence the American election in attempts to undermine Clinton’s campaign and improve Trump’s chances, despite repeated denials of colluding with Moscow by the US president.—Agencies