Moscow (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin cracked raunchy jokes on Tuesday as he poked fun at claims that Russian secret services filmed US President-elect Donald Trump with prostitutes.
Showing he is familiar with the claims in the explosive dossier, Putin launched into a series of ribald jokes about prostitutes, riffing on Trump's former role as owner of the Miss Universe beauty contest.
The unsubstantiated dossier published by American media last week alleged that Russia had gathered compromising information on Trump, namely videos involving prostitutes at a luxury Moscow hotel, supposedly as a potential means for blackmail.
Trump has denied the claims as "fake news," while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week called the dossier a fabrication aimed at damaging Moscow's ties with Washington.
In his first public comments on the claims, Putin rubbished the idea that Russian secret services would have spied on Trump during his 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe final, as alleged in the dossier, which he called an "obvious fabrication."
"Trump when he came to Moscow... wasn't any kind of political figure, we didn't even know of his political ambitions," Putin said, responding to a journalist's question at a news conference.
"Does anyone think that our special services chase every American billionaire? Of course not, it's just completely ridiculous."
- 'Degradation of political elite' -
Putin also questioned why Trump would feel the need to hire prostitutes, given his opportunities to meet beautiful women at the Miss Universe contest.
"He's a grown-up for a start and secondly a man who spent his whole life organising beauty contests and meeting the most beautiful women in the world," Putin said.
"I can hardly imagine that he ran off to a hotel to meet our girls of 'lowered social responsibility'," said Putin, adding jokingly "although they are of course the best in the world.
"I doubt Trump fell for that."
Putin went on to compare those behind the dossier unfavourably with prostitutes.
"The people who order falsifications of the kind that are now circulating against the US President-elect -- they are worse than prostitutes, they don't have any moral limits at all.
"The fact that such methods are being used against the US President-elect is a unique case: nothing like this has happened before.
"This shows a significant level of degradation of the political elite in the West."
Putin stressed once again he has never met Trump and said he has no grounds to either attack or defend him.
"We won't even apply to the Nobel Prize committee to award him the prize for physics or mathematics," Putin said, in a wry reference to Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize soon after entering the White House in 2009.
- 'Fake stories' -
Putin condemned Trump's opponents for attempting to "undermine (his) legitimacy" and tie him "by the hands and feet" as he tried to carry out his campaign promises.
"Whether or not they want this, the people who do this cause huge damage to the interests of the US, just huge," he added.
"It's as if they want to put together a Maidan in Washington after practising in Kiev," Putin said, referring to public protests and unrest that rocked the capital of Ukraine in 2013 and 2014 which ended in the overthrow of its ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, something Moscow proclaims was a US-backed coup d'etat.
Putin cited the scandal over cyber attacks on the Democratic Party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that US intelligence organisations said Russia had masterminded to influence the polls.
"How can you do anything to improve Russian-US relations if fake stories are thrown in such as the intervention of some hackers during the election campaign?" Putin asked.