- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday adamantly denied having any involvement in the U.S. election.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Mr. Putin said he and President Trump did not have any agreement or plan to influence the presidential election last year, and he compared Hillary Clinton blaming Russian influence to anti-Semitism.

“It’s easy to say, ‘it’s not our fault, it’s the Russians,’” he said. “It’s like anti-Semitism — ‘it’s not our fault, it’s the Jews.’ “It’s just absurd what they’re saying. I don’t know where these people come from who distribute this information. Our ambassador meets someone, that’s what an ambassador gets money for.”

The Russian leader did get heated when discussing the Russian collusion, asking moderator Megyn Kelly if there was “a pill” that could stop this “hysteria.”

Mr. Putin did acknowledge that he and Mr. Trump did say they talked about having a better relationship between the two countries.

“We simply said we should think about how we’re building our relations,” he said. “Shouldn’t we think about that and not do that recklessly?”

The Russian president did criticize Mr. Trump for asking NATO to increase it’s military spending, suggesting the organization as a whole was outdated since the fall of the Soviet Union.

“If you’re not intending to attack anybody, why increase your military spending?” he asked. “The U.S. demand from their allies to raise their spending and simultaneously say that NATO is not going to attack anybody.”

Mr. Putin also denied that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons.

“[Mr. Assad has] been accused of using chemical weapons. There’s no evidence to support that whatsoever,” Mr. Putin said. “You’ve got to ask the other leaders who have communicated with Assad. He was more often in Europe after he was elected than in Russia. We want to preserve the Syrian statehood. Let’s not forget that were it not for an active interference from the outside, the civil war probably would not have broken out.”

Mr. Putin said he discussed airstrike strategy in the region with American counterparts.

“Together with our American counterparts we had discussions with our American counterparts about where we should perform strikes were we shouldn’t perform strikes,” he said. “Should we wait for these terrorists to come to our country? No, we’re not going to wait for that.”

Ms. Kelly pointed out that Russia acknowledged the use of chemical weapons in 2013 when they entered an agreement with former President Barack Obama to prevent these attacks.

“First, when President Obama agreed to work together to destroy chemical weapons, we assumed they had them, but we never said Assad had used them,” Mr. Putin said. “Secondly, people who were killed or suffered because of use of chemical weapons this is false information.”

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