Vladimir Putin has lashed out at US politicians, accusing them of stirring up "hysteria" about Russia's alleged attempts at meddling in the upcoming presidential elections. The Russian president denied any involvement and/or attempts to influence the elections, adding that the allegations made by the US authorities were a ploy to distract voters from focusing attention on US politicians' failings in tackling domestic issues.
Addressing an audience of Russian foreign policy experts at an annual event in Sochi on 27 October, Putin repeatedly criticised the Obama administration for accusing the Kremlin on a number of issues.
"Does anyone really think that anyone can influence a US election?" Putin asked. "Is it a banana republic, or something? No, it's a great power."
"Hysteria has been whipped up," he said, adding that cyberattacks or any other kind of attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of a foreign nation were unacceptable, Reuters reported.
The Russian president also criticised the tone of the US campaign, indicating that the two candidates had more similarities than differences. "Elections have ceased to be an instrument of change, and are all about scandals, about blackmail, and discussion of who groped whom and who is sleeping with whom," he said, the Guardian reported. "It's much simpler to distract people with so-called Russian hackers, spies, and agents of influence."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed Putin's remarks, adding that the US stood by its allegations of Russian attempts at hacking the US elections. "There's nothing that President Putin had to say today that I find particularly surprising or that in any way undermines the president's confidence in the analysis that's been released by the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community," said Earnest, Reuters reported.
Putin also dismissed claims of Donald Trump being the Kremlin's favoured candidate, adding that such a narrative was "total nonsense" and "just a form of manipulating public opinion" by the western media.
"If you look at the programmes of the different candidates, you get the feeling that they are all tailored in the same way, and that the differences between them are insignificant, and in reality there are no differences."
However, the Russian president lauded Trump and his campaign. "He chose his own way of reaching voters' hearts," he said. "Of course he's behaving extravagantly, but I don't think it's necessarily without reason. I think he is representing the interests of that part of the American electorate, and it's a significant part, that is tired of the same elite who have been in power for decades. He is representing the interests of ordinary people."
As the November 8 elections draw closer, tensions are rising between the two nations. Russia recently was also targeted by an American vigilante hacker who claimed to have hacked into government websites as a warning to not mess with the US elections.