Russian President Vladimir Putin at the International Arctic Forum in St Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday, April 9 2019. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ANDREY RUDAKOV
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the International Arctic Forum in St Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday, April 9 2019. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ANDREY RUDAKOV

St Petersburg/Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’s ready to seek areas of co-operation with US counterpart Donald Trump, calling the furore over election-meddling allegations part of a deep political crisis in Washington.

In his first public comments on the outcome of US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Putin welcomed the finding that there was no evidence collusion took place between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

“We said from the very start that this notorious commission of Mr Mueller wouldn’t find anything because we know this better than anyone,” Putin said on Tuesday at the International Arctic Forum in St Petersburg. “It’s utter nonsense aimed solely at a domestic audience and used for internal political struggle in the US.”

Trump scored the biggest political victory of his presidency last month when US attorney-general William Barr published a summary of Mueller’s assessment that there was no collusion during the campaign. The president, who’d condemned the 22-month inquiry as a “witch hunt” said he’d been completely exonerated.

Witch hunts are “a black page” in US history and “I would not like it ever to happen again”, Putin said, adding that the outcome of the Mueller investigation showed that “a mountain gave birth to a mouse”. 

While Putin said that when the two leaders met in Helsinki last year he’d wanted Trump to win the 2016 election because of his pledge to improve relations, he side-stepped a question on whether he supports the US president’s re-election in 2020.

“We respect the wishes of the American people,” he said. “Whoever is president, we’re ready to work with them.’’

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind hacking aimed at damaging Democratic Party contender Hillary Clinton and boosting Trump’s chances of winning the election. Russia rejects the allegations. Trump pledged during his campaign to improve ties with Russia and has repeatedly said he wants good relations with Putin.

The Russian leader said he has “plenty of disagreements” with Trump, whose administration has imposed a series of new sanctions on his country, but is ready to work with the US on issues of joint interest, including terrorism and arms control.

Said Putin: “We hope that when this situation normalises, opportunities will emerge for bilateral co-operation on all issues.” 

Bloomberg