President Putin rejects Russian accusations over US election

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected allegations of Russian interference in last year's US presidential election and said President Donald Trump's opponents spread the allegations to undermine his legitimacy.

Speaking at the annual marathon press conference at Moscow, Putin expressed hope that American-Russian relations will return to normal.

American intelligence agencies have concluded Putin ordered a campaign to influence American voters to support Trump, to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump has declared his campaign team not in collusion with Russia.

Putin on Thursday declared that Russia is worried the United States will come out of a deal on arms control, while its country will continue to abide by the treaty. He also said the Russian military would develop weapons as needed, without the need to engage in an arms race with the United States.

Regarding North Korea, Putin said the use of violence by the United States would only have devastating consequences. He said Russia could not accept North Korea's nuclear status and blamed the United States for provoking North Korea to develop its nuclear program.

A week after the International Olympic Committee decided that Russian athletes could not compete under the banner of their country at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang , South Korea, Putin said the ban was politically motivated.

The Russian leader later told reporters that the Russian leader told journalists that Russia should have a more competitive political system and that if he ran for presidential election next year, he will do so as an independent candidate instead of a United Russia party.

Mr Putin has served as Russia's prime minister or president since 1999 and last week announced his plan to run again for a term that ends in 2024. He is widely expected to won.

He said his government needed to focus on health services, education and infrastructure development. Putin also said opposition parties did not have a strong candidate to face him in the election. [uh/ab]

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