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Putin: Maybe 'Jews' but not Kremlin meddled in US election

AFP  |  Washington 

suggested in a US television interview that Ukrainians, Tatars or "Jews," could have meddled in the 2016 US - but not the Kremlin.

"Why have you decided the Russian authorities, myself included, gave anybody permission to do this?" Putin asked in the often-combative interview with television.

The leading agencies concluded last year that Putin personally directed an intelligence effort to influence the 2016 US to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign and boost Republican

Last month US Robert Mueller, who is conducting a widespread probe into Russia's role in the campaign, indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for allegedly backing Trump, maligning Clinton, and engaging in other election interference.

"So what if they're Russians?" Putin said of the allegations, according to transcripts of the interview released late yesterday.

"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."

"Maybe," Putin said, "they are not even Russians but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked; maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card; maybe the US paid them for this.

"How can you know that? I do not know either."

Despite Mueller's 37-page indictment, Putin said he has seen no evidence thus far that the alleged meddling broke any laws.

"We in 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."

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Moscow, and Putin laughed at the mere suggestion.

"Could anyone really believe that Russia, thousands of miles away... influenced the outcome of the election? Doesn't that sound ridiculous even to you?" Putin asked.

On announcing the indictment on the Russians, US Deputy Attorney said the document made no judgment on whether the alleged Russian propaganda campaign altered the election outcome.

"It's not our goal to interfere. We do not see what goal we would accomplish by interfering. There's no goal," Putin said.

chiefs last month said still seeks to meddle in US politics, posing a threat to mid-term in November, and the 2020

Trump has acknowledged that and "other countries" meddled in the 2016 election, but insisted it had "no impact on our votes whatsoever" and vowed to make sure it wouldn't happen again.

"We'll counteract whatever they do. We'll counteract it very strongly. You don't want your system of votes to be compromised in any way," Trump said Tuesday. "And we won't allow that to happen."

Russian efforts however are said to go far beyond US elections: US Curtis Scaparrotti, the of NATO forces in Europe, told US lawmakers on Thursday that Russia is working to break up the NATO alliance partly through its spreading false information.

"Russia is carrying out a campaign of destabilisation to change the international order, fracture NATO and undermine US leadership around the world," Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed on Thursday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, March 10 2018. 22:35 IST