'I DO NOT CARE': Vladimir Putin responds to alleged USA election interference

Specialist officers in protective suits scour the bench where Mr Skripal and his daughter collapsed after being attacked

America's leading intelligence agencies concluded previous year that Putin himself had directed a broad intelligence effort to influence the USA election to undermine Clinton's campaign and boost Trump's chances, but Trump has repeatedly denied colluding with Moscow.

In an interview with the US TV network NBC, the Russian president was asked if he condoned the interference by 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies detailed in a US indictment. "Maybe they're Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews - just with a Russian citizenship".

"OK fine, Russians", Putin said. Putin said. "There are 146 million Russians". "I don't care. I couldn't care less".

"They do not represent the interests of the Russian state".

Putin was asked by NBC's Megyn Kelly if he ever reads USA leader Donald Trump's posts on Twitter.

"Give us an official request", he added.

"Could anyone really believe that Russian Federation, thousands of miles away, influenced the outcome of the election?"

Putin, in a previously aired clip of his interview with Kelly, said he will "never" extradite the 13 Russians who Mueller charged in his probe.

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USA government intelligence agencies are in unanimous agreement that Russian Federation interfered in America's election.

The Russian leader also rejected those assessments.

"Doesn't that sound ridiculous even to you?"

Putin claimed that the United States interferes in Russian elections "all the time" but that it was "impossible for us" to do the same.

"Even though this is his first term as President, he is a quick study, and he understands perfectly well that trading accusations or insults at our level is a road to nowhere", Putin said.

USA intelligence agencies and many Western analysts have said that Russian interference came at the orders of the Kremlin.

Putin suggested in the interview that the reason Trump has seemed deferential to him is he knew upon taking office that he needed to develop a "cooperative relationship" with Russian Federation and thus he needed to treat his counterpart with respect.

Trump himself has repeatedly refused to condemn Russian Federation over the alleged meddling, and has said he admires Putin as a strong leader. "Donald is a more modern individual".

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