Vladimir Putin has denied his government had any connection to Russian nationals charged with interfering in the US election.
As part of his investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest, Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month charged 13 Russian nationals and three organisations in connection with what an indictment described as a sophisticated plot to foment distrust of American government and tilt the election.
In an interview with NBC, Mr Putin said Russia would “never” extradite its citizens and rebuffed the notion of a link to the Kremlin.
“I know that they do not represent the Russian state, the Russian authorities”, the Russian President said.
American intelligence officials have concluded that Mr Putin directed an offensive aimed at undermining faith in American democracy and attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, eventually developing a “clear preference” for Donald Trump.
Mr Putin and other government surrogates have rejected that conclusion. Former ambassador Sergei Kislyak last month called the allegations in Mr Mueller’s indictment of Russian nationals “fantasies” that were being used as ammunition for America’s domestic political disputes.
The indictment alleges the Russian operatives work for the Internet Research Agency, an outfit commonly described as a troll farm which the indictment describes as an “organisation engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes”, saying it was guided by “a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election”.
The document does not allege the Internet Research Agency was controlled or directed by the Russian government. But it describes the organisation being overseen by a man named Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch who is seen as close enough to Mr Putin that the Russian media has dubbed him the President’s “chef”.
Source: Independent Money News