President Vladimir Putin says "anti-Russia hysteria" is dominating US politics
He describes proposed US sanctions as "illegal under international law"
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he “very much regrets” the worsening of relations between Russia and the United States.
“It is a great pity that Russian-American relations are being sacrificed to this domestic, internal American issue,” Putin said at a news conference in Savonlinna, Finland.
“What we are seeing (in the US) is merely anti-Russia hysteria,” Putin said, in response to a question from CNN about the state of the relationship in light of the investigation in the US Congress into allegations of Russian election meddling and the possible tightening of US sanctions.
“…the election of the US president, it is not our business, and it is not up to us to assess what he does in this very senior post, that’s up to the US public,” Putin said.
“As far as the investigation is concerned, I don’t actually think it is an investigation because an investigation implies a full study and analysis of the situation.”
Putin said he regretted the deterioration in US-Russia ties because if the two nations acted together they would be “much more able to solve the acute problems which exist around the world and in Russia and the United States,” such as combating terrorism, tackling environmental issues, fighting illegal migration and organized crime, and helping promote economic growth.
“But we know that we have many friends in the United States, we know that there are lots of people with common sense,” Putin added. “I hope that today’s situation will be over and we will then be able to transit to a different stage based on trust and confidence.”
Proposed US sanctions ‘illegal’
Putin described the sanctions bill currently working its way through US Congress – which calls for new measures against Russia, North Korea and Iran, and limits Trump’s ability to alter them – as “illegal under international law” and warned that Russia might have to respond.
“We haven’t seen the final version yet, so we haven’t got any kind of definitive view on it, but we can see that over a lengthy period they are trying to provoke us more and more,” he said.
Putin also labeled the proposed sanctions “a blatant move” by the US to “promote its own economic interests,” adding that this would be to the detriment of its allies.
The European Union warned the United States on Wednesday that the bloc would act “within days” if it did not receive reassurances on the potential impact of the sanctions on European interests.
‘We will have to respond’
Putin said a lot of Russian diplomats had been expelled “without any particular reason” – a reference to sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama in December for Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election – and said there had also been problems in business “which had no foundation at all.”
“The principles of trade enshrined in the WTO are also being violated but as you know we are very patient and are being very restrained, but at some point obviously we will have to respond, we can’t go on forever tolerating this boorish behavior towards our country,” he said.
Anthony Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s new communications director, told CNN on Thursday that the US President may veto the bipartisan sanctions, breaking with the widespread approval the measures received on Capitol Hill.
“He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians,” Scaramucci said on CNN’s “New Day,” calling Trump’s strategy on sanctions part of his “counterintuitive, counterpunching personality.”
CNN’s Matthew Chance reported from Savonlinna and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.