Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the outgoing US administration of trying to undermine President-elect Donald Trump by spreading fake allegations and says those who are doing it are “worse than prostitutes”.
Asked about an unsubstantiated dossier outlining unverified claims that Mr Trump engaged in sexual activities with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel, Mr Putin dismissed it as “fake” and “nonsense”.
He said it was part of efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to “undermine the legitimacy of the President-elect” despite his “convincing” victory.
Mr Trump earlier rejected the sexual allegations as “fake news” and “phony stuff”.
Mr Putin’s broadside at the White House reveals a culmination of tensions between Moscow and Washington, which have built up over the Ukrainian crisis, the Syrian war and the allegations of Russian meddling in the US election.
“People who order such fakes against the US president-elect, fabricate them and use them in political struggle are worse than prostitutes,” Mr Putin said.
“They have no moral restrictions whatsoever, and it highlights a significant degree of degradation of political elites in the West, including in the United States.”
He spoke in Moscow during a news conference following talks with the president of Moldova.
The Russian leader ridiculed the authors of the Trump dossier for alleging that Russian spy agencies collected compromising material on Mr Trump when he visited Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant.
“He wasn’t a politician, we didn’t even know about his political ambitions,” Mr Putin said.
“Do they think that our special services are hunting for every US billionaire?”
Mr Putin said Mr Trump’s foes are ready to go as far as to “stage a Maidan in Washington to prevent Trump from entering office”, in reference to the alleged US role in organising protests in the main square of the Ukrainian capital, the Maidan, which forced the country’s Russia-friendly president from power in 2014.
“People who are doing that are inflicting a colossal damage to the interests of the United States,” Mr Putin said.
‘I don’t know Trump. I have never met him’: Putin
Mr Putin also charged that those spreading allegations against Mr Trump want to “bind the President-elect hand and foot to prevent him from fulfilling his election promises”.
“How can you do anything to improve US-Russian relations when they launch such canards as hackers’ interference in the election?” he said.
Mr Putin voiced hope that “common sense will prevail” and Russia and the United States will be able to normalise their relations once Mr Trump takes office.
He said he had no interest in defending Mr Trump.
“I don’t know Mr Trump. I have never met him and I don’t know what he will do on the international arena,” Mr Putin said.
“I have no reason whatsoever to assail him, criticise him for something, or defend him.”
At a separate news conference on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow hopes for better relations with the United States based on respect for mutual interests once Mr Trump takes office, in contrast with the “messianic” approach of the outgoing US administration that he said has ravaged ties.
Mr Lavrov said Russia and the US can reach common ground on nuclear arms control and other issues if each country proceeds from its national interests and shows respect for the other side.