Vladimir Putin, Russian President has described allegations that his country meddled in the 2016 US election as “fictional, illusory, provocations and lies.”
Asked directly on Thursday whether Russia interfered in the election, Putin said: “Read my lips: No.”
Putin’s comments are the President’s most insistent denial of the accusations yet, and are the first he has directly made since Trump took office in January.
Russian officials and spokespeople for Putin, however, have brushed off the claims several times as a political “witch hunt.”
The denial comes as intelligence committees from both the House and Senate in the US investigate the alleged interference in the US election, including possible ties between Russian officials and members of US President Donald Trump’s campaign team. The FBI is also conducting its own investigation.
The US government publicly announced in October that it was “confident” Russia orchestrated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other political organizations of the Democratic Party in the lead-up to the election.
And in January, days before Trump took office; the US intelligence community concluded that Putin had ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Trump’s rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.
The DNC hacks resulted in the public release of thousands of stolen emails, many of which included damaging revelations about the Democratic Party and Clinton’s campaign.
Trump has flip-flopped on the issue, at first refusing to consider that Russia may have been behind the DNC hacks, but later conceding “I think it was Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in January that the charges against Russia “were not backed by anything” and were “made on a very amateur, emotional level.”
“What we see is … that all of this looks like is a full-scale witch hunt,” Peskov said.
Before leaving office, former President Barack Obama ordered a full review into hacking aimed at influencing US elections going back to 2008.