President Vladimir Putin has again dismissed allegations that Russia has been meddling in the U.S. presidential election, saying those claims were just an effort to distract the attention of the U.S. electorate from real issues
In a wide-ranging speech in which he also defended Russia's actions in Syria, Putin told an annual meeting of foreign academics and analysts on October 27 that allegations of Russian interference in the election were "mythical and fictitious", reports RFE/RL.
He said the United States was using the claims to distract from issues like the federal debt and police violence and it was absurd to say the country could be susceptible to Russia's influence.
"Does anyone seriously think Russia can somehow influence the choice of the American people? Is the U.S. some kind of banana republic? The United States is a great power. Please correct me if I'm wrong," Putin said, triggering laughter in the audience.
The allegations of Russian meddling have become a prominent issue in the campaign between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump. U.S. intelligence officials recently accused Russia publicly of coordinating the hacks of Clinton's campaign emails.
Putin's comments came during a meeting of the Valdai Club, an invitation-only, government-sponsored gathering that brings together foreign academics and experts on Russia for closed-door discussions with Russian leaders and officials.