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Putin: 'Read my lips,' there was no Russian meddling in U.S. vote

Putin: 'Read my lips,' there was no Russian meddling in U.S. vote
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during the International Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia, on March 30, 2017. (SERGEI KARPUKHIN / AFP/Getty Images)

Calling the accusations "lies," Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday denied that Moscow meddled in last year's U.S. election.

"Read my lips, no," Putin said during a panel moderated by CNBC, according to a report on the news agency's website.

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"All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies," the Russian president said. "All these are used for domestic American political agendas. The anti-Russian card is played by different political forces inside the United States to trade on that and consolidate their positions inside.

Putin's comments came as the Senate Intelligence Committee was set to begin a hearing titled "Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns," which will focus on understanding the method of Russia's active disinformation campaign and assess the extent of Moscow's interference.

FBI Director James B. Comey confirmed this month that his agency was investigating Russia's intrusion into the 2016 poll and whether there was any collusion between Moscow and President Trump's campaign.

Members of Trump's transition team, including his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who has since resigned, met Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, before Trump took office.

Trump has called accusations that his campaign somehow conspired with Russia a "hoax."

During the CNBC panel, which was moderated by the network's co-anchor Geoff Cutmore at the International Arctic Forum in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk, Putin said the role of an ambassador was to communicate with people. But when it came to the Russian ambassador to the United States, "there are restrictions."

"Any meeting he has is seen negatively, like some kind of a spy operation," Putin said. "Isn't it nonsense? What's the ambassador here for? To communicate with people, to maintain contacts with the political elite, with businessmen, with members of the Congress and the Senate, with government and administration members. Why did he come there? These are commonly accepted diplomatic practices."

Putin said he hoped "one day, the sooner, the better," the situation would normalize.

"It is not in the interests of the American people to get Russia-U.S. ties to an absurd point for the sake of a domestic political calendar," Putin said. "What do we want? To wrap up our ties altogether; they are at a zero point anyway.

"Do we want to sever diplomatic ties? To get to the situation of the 1960s, to the [Cuban] missile crisis?" he said. "And then what?

Putin said there was evidence of mutual respect between Russia and America.

"We know — and polls show it — that there are many friends of Russia in the U.S. And I would like to tell them first of all that we see the U.S. as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations."

Special correspondent Mansur Mirovalev reported from Moscow.

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UPDATES:

2:45 p.m.: This post was updated with additional comments by Putin during the CNBC panel discussion, and additional background.

This post was originally published at 8 a.m.

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