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Vladimir Putin likens U.S. election allegations to anti-Semitism

Putin on election

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- President Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, accusing the Democrats of trying to shift blame for their defeat and likening the accusations against Russia to anti-Semitism.

Facing questions from NBC's Megyn Kelly, who moderated a panel discussion at St. Petersburg's economic forum, Putin said the claims of Russian interference in the U.S. election contained "nothing concrete, only assumptions."

Asked about the "fingerprints," IP addresses allegedly belonging to Russian hackers, he said those could have been easily rigged and couldn't stand as credible evidence.

"What fingerprints?" Putin said sarcastically. "Hoof prints? Horn prints? Technology experts can invent anything and put the blame on anyone."

Putin insists Russian government not involved in U.S. election hacking

U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party emails, helping Donald Trump's election victory, and the congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia have broken the Kremlin's hopes for a detente with Washington.

In a sign of exasperation, Putin compared what he described as the obsessive U.S. focus on alleged Russian interference with the vote to anti-Semitism.

"It reminds me of anti-Semitism," he said. "A dumb man who can't do anything would blame the Jews for everything."

Putin insisted Thursday that his government was not involved in hacking the U.S. election, CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reports.

But Putin did acknowledge that any Russian hackers that acted on their own were "patriotically minded" and may have participated in what they believed was "the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia."

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Pegues reports that alone was a bold statement from Putin, a man that some have called a master of spin.

On Friday, Putin said the allegations of Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee overshadow the fact that the leaked emails were genuine and revealed unpleasant truth.

"It was true information, was it so important who leaked it?" he said. "It was necessary to apologize to the people and vow not to make such mistakes in the future."

He blamed the Democrats for the failure to acknowledge their mistakes in the campaign, and "taking internal U.S. political squabbles into international arena."

"The problem isn't us, the problem is inside U.S. politics," he said. "Trump's team was more efficient during the election campaign."

Participants of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum gather near an electronic screen showing Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is speaking during a session of the forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 2, 2017.
Participants of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum gather near an electronic screen showing Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is speaking during a session of the forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 2, 2017. Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

He added that while watching the U.S. campaign unfold, he would sometimes think that Mr. Trump was going "over the top."

"But it turned out that he was right," Putin said. "He found the right approach to those groups of the population, to those voters whom he targeted. They came to the polls and voted for him, and the other team miscalculated."

With particular scorn, Putin scoffed at the U.S. focus on the Russian ambassador's contacts with members of Mr. Trump's team, saying that the envoy was merely doing his job.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak's meetings with members of Mr. Trump's team have been a focus of the congressional investigation.

Putin insisted that it was perfectly normal for Kislyak to try to establish contacts and discuss future ties, adding that he hadn't started to discuss specifics.

"What else the ambassador is supposed to do?" Putin said. "He's paid for holding meetings, discussing current affairs. Are you nuts?"

Asked about his view of Mr. Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, Putin refrained from criticizing the move and called for a constructive dialogue on efforts needed to curb global warming.

He underlined the importance of the Paris climate agreement, but noted that it's a framework agreement offering a broad room for maneuver for each signatory nation.

Putin also said that Mr. Trump's promise to negotiate new conditions for the U.S. leaves hope for reaching a compromise before the Paris deal takes effect, adding that U.S. participation is essential for the success of global efforts.

He joked that Mr. Trump's move made him a convenient person to blame for any spell of bad weather, including wet snow in Moscow on Friday, an extremely rare occurrence in the summer.

"Now we can dump it all on him and American imperialism," Putin said.