Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured in May delivering a speech in Greece, said Thursday at a meeting of Russian leaders that accusations Russia is interfering in the U.S. presidential election are ridiculous. He also said Donald Trump has captured what many U.S. voters think, noting, however, that he sees little difference in proposals for the country by Trump and Hillary Clinton. Photo by Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock
SOCHI, Russia, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Vladimir Putin thinks it's ridiculous to think Russia could undermine an election in the United States, but praised Donald Trump's campaign for capturing the beliefs of a "significant" portion of voters.
The Russian president mocked accusations that his government is meddling in the U.S. election during a speech Thursday in Sochi, calling it impossible and suggesting the concept has been dreamed up to distract from the lack of politicians in the United States with solutions to the country's problems.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence officially accused the Russian government of stealing emails from citizens, institutions and political organizations and releasing them in an attempt to affect the U.S. election.
"Among the mythical, invented problems and concerns is hysteria -- I cannot call it otherwise -- unfolding in the U.S. concerning the current presidential election," Putin said. "Does anyone seriously think that Russia can somehow influence the choice of the American people? What, is America some kind of banana republic? America is a great power -- please, correct me if I'm wrong."
Putin's remarks follow those of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who called the accusation "flattering" but "ridiculous" two weeks ago.
In his speech, Putin said there is little difference between the proposals of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Politicians in the United States have no solutions for issues such as the national debt and gun crime, he said, and "it's easier to distract people with supposed Russian hackers, spies and agents of interest."
Putin also denied he favors Trump over Clinton, calling the campaign narrative "total nonsense" cooked up by the media, but said Trump is still in the running to become president because of the campaign he has run.
"He chose his own way of reaching voters' hearts," Putin said. "Of course he's behaving extravagantly, but I don't think it's necessarily without reason. I think he is representing the interests of that part of the American electorate, and it's a significant part, that is tired of the same elite who have been in power for decades. He is representing the interests of ordinary people."
Trump, for his part, has called Putin a strong leader, said he'll say nice things about the Russian president if Putin says nice things about him and has spoken about the need for U.S. leaders to work with him.
The stance is not unpopular among his supporters, and Trump said last week he'd be willing to meet with Putin before his inauguration if he actually wins the election.