Allegations of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia have been “invented” by his political foes to undermine his legitimacy, Russian President Vladmir Putin said Thursday, adding that the reports have undermined the U.S. political system.
Speaking at his annual marathon news conference, Putin reaffirmed his firm denial of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“All of it was invented by people who oppose President Trump to undermine his legitimacy,” he said. “I’m puzzled by that. People who do it are inflicting damage to the domestic political situation, incapacitating the president and showing a lack of respect for voters who cast their ballots for him.”
He argued that Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, whose contacts with Trump’s entourage are part of the FBI and Congressional probes into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, was simply performing his routine duties like any other ambassador.
Putin also insisted Russia’s state-funded RT TV and Sputnik news agency had a very minor presence in the U.S. media market, adding that the U.S. demand for them to register as foreign agents represented an attack on media freedom. Russia has responded in return, requesting the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to register as foreign agents.
Putin noted Trump’s achievements, saying that global markets have demonstrated investors’ confidence in Trump’s economic course.