President Vladimir Putin says accusations of Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia have damaged the US political system and demonstrated disrespect for those who voted for Mr Trump.
Speaking at an annual news conference, President Putin again rejected claims of interference in the US presidential election, saying that the accusations against President Trump have been spread by his political opponents in a bid to undermine his legitimacy.
He said that he was puzzled by the infighting, which he said “inflicted damage to the domestic political situation” and showed “lack of respect for voters” who chose Mr Trump.
He noted President Trump’s achievements, saying that growing markets have demonstrated investors’ confidence in the US president’s economic course.
He voiced hope for a recovery in the US-Russian ties, emphasising that the two countries need to cooperate on tackling global challenges.
President Putin added that political machinations are behind the International Olympic Committee’s ban on Russia’s national team at the upcoming Winter Games.
He said that he believes that the “scandal is being created ahead of the domestic political calendar”.
President Putin is up for re-election in March and he has suggested before that his adversaries might use the ban to dampen his popularity.
Russian athletes earlier this week decided overwhelmingly in favour of competing at the Pyeongchang Games.
Russian athletes must compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under a neutral flag as IOC punishment for doping offences at the 2014 Olympics.
President Putin said “whatever people say, I’m convinced, I just know this is the case” that the ban is linked to the 2018 presidential campaign.
He also warned the US not to use force against North Korea, adding that the consequences will be “catastrophic”.
President Putin said Moscow was encouraged to hear US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement about readiness for talks with Pyongyang, hailing it as a “realistic” approach.
He emphasised that Russia opposes Pyongyang’s nuclear bid and is ready for “constructive” cooperation to end the stand-off.
He added, however, that the US “provoked” Pyongyang to develop its nuclear and missile programmes by spiking a 2005 deal with Pyongyang.
At the same time, he sarcastically noted that US calls on Russia to help settle the North Korean crisis follow the US sanctions that put Russia on par with Iran and North Korea.