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Putin says claims that Russia interfered in US elections are 'lies'

CNBC logo CNBC 30/03/2017 Geoff Cutmore
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Accusations that Russia interfered in last year's U.S. elections are "lies" used for "domestic American politics," Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

"We said on numerous occasions and I reiterate that we are confident … and know for sure that opinion polls in the United States show that very many people are … friendly towards the Russian Federation, and I'd like to tell these people that we perceive and regard the United States as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations," Putin said on a CNBC-moderated panel.

"All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies. All these are used for domestic American political agendas. The anti-Russian card is played by different political forces inside the United States to trade on that and consolidate their positions inside," Putin said in Russian.

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Earlier this month, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that it is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, including any links between Moscow and Donald Trump's campaign.

The investigation began in July, several months before the election, but Comey did not confirm the probe until his appearance at a House Intelligence Committee hearing this month. In January, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report accusing Russia of meddling in the elections.

"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report said, adding that intelligence agencies have "high confidence" in that assessment.

Trump has denied colluding with Russia and said the Democrats "made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign."

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating.

When asked on Thursday whether Russia had interfered, Putin
borrowed a phrase from former President George H.W. Bush, saying: "Read my lips, no."

'American friends'

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked for billionaire Oleg Deripaska, known to be a close ally of Putin's. The work involved pushing the interests of the Russian president, AP reported, citing sources. Manafort and Deripaska worked together a decade ago.

Deripaska took out a newspaper advertisement in the The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal saying he was "ready to take part in any hearings conducted in the U.S. Congress on this subject in order to defend my reputation and name."

Putin said Russia has reached out to lawmakers in Washington to have talks on "relevant things" but is yet to receive a response. He said if Deripaska wants to go to the U.S. and address Congress, "it's up to him" and he can go and explain why the accusations against him are "unfounded."

Putin also took a swipe at the sanctions imposed on Russian business leaders by President Barack Obama in retaliation against Russia's annexation of Crimea. The European Union followed suit with their own sanctions.

The Russian president said they were "detrimental" to the U.S. and European economies.

"The fact that the Obama administration incited the Europeans to act likewise harms the European competitiveness and resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands jobs," Putin said.

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