Russian President Vladimir Putin says American politicians are whipping up hysteria about a mythical Russian threat in the US presidential campaign as a ploy to distract voters from their own failings.
Putin, addressing an audience of foreign policy experts gathered in southern Russia on Thursday, said he found it hard to believe that anyone seriously thought Moscow was capable of influencing the November 8 election.
The US government has formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organisations, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has accused Republican rival Donald Trump of being a Putin “puppet”.
“Hysteria has been whipped up in the United States about the influence of Russia over the US presidential election,” said Putin, calling it a ruse to cover up for the fact that the US political elite had nothing to say about serious issues such as the country’s national debt or gun control.
“It’s much simpler to distract people with so-called Russian hackers, spies, and agents of influence. Does anyone really think that Russia could influence the American people’s choice in any way? Is America a banana republic or what? America is a great power.”
Putin also said certain forces in the West were trying to exaggerate the threat that Russia posed in order to secure higher military spending and talk up their own importance.
He said Russia was not planning to attack anyone.
But he did warn Russia was losing patience.
Washington last week formally accused Russia of trying to interfere in the White House race by hacking US political institutions – something the Kremlin has denied repeatedly.
US – Russia relations have also been frosty after the conflict in Ukraine and its backing of the Assad regime in Syria.