Russian president Vladimir Putin said he “doesn't care" about the alleged meddling of Russian nationals and companies in the U.S. presidential election on 2016 that saw the victory of Republican candidate Donald Trump over his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton.
Putin discussed the indictment filed by special counsel Robert Mueller last month as part of an exclusive interview to NBC’s Megyn Kelly aired on Friday night under the title “Confronting Putin,” which touched on several topics including the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
The Russian presidential office published a transcript of the full interview on its official website on Saturday morning, specifying the conversation took place in two seatings, in the Kremlin on March 1 and in Kaliningrad on March 2. Putin said “So What?” nine times throughout the interview, all in relation to the allegations.
“So what if they’re Russians?” Putin said. “There are 146 million Russians. So what? I don’t care,” he continued, adding “They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.”
He also denied being a friend of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman dubbed "Putin's chef" because he frequently served the Russian president at his restaurants, who is among those named in the indictment. “He is not my friend. I know him, but he is not a friend of mine,” Putin said.
The Russian president, who is running for another six-year term in office at the March 18 election which could ensure his presence at the seat of the country's power until 2024, professed ignorance over the Russian nationals’ motives. “I have no idea what they did and what they were guided by,” he said, adding that it is not Russia’s goal to interfere in other countries’ elections.
The interview also touched upon Putin’s relationship with President Trump. The Russian president described his American counterpart as “a businessman with very extensive experience” and a “modern” man, in reference to his tweeting habit.
Putin said he does not read Trump’s tweets nor does he use the social network himself. “I have other means of expressing my point of view or making decisions,” he said.
As for the relations between U.S. and Russia, Putin said Trump “understands perfectly well that trading accusations or insults at our level is a road to nowhere.” He added: “It would just mean depriving our countries of their last chance for dialogue, simply the last chance."
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