MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Friday praised U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for "keenly" feeling public sentiment to win the election and denied the White House's claims of Russia's meddling in the vote.
Speaking during a marathon end-of-year news conference that was televised live, Putin said he sees "nothing unusual" in Trump's pledge to strengthen the U.S. nuclear forces, calling the statement in line with the president-elect's campaign promises.
In his wide-ranging remarks, the Russian leader claimed that Russia's military is stronger than any potential aggressor, but acknowledged that the U.S. military is bigger. He also cast the modernization of Russian nuclear arsenals as a necessary response to the U.S. missile defense system.
"It's not us who have been speeding up the arms race," Putin said, claiming that Russian military's nuclear missiles can penetrate any missile defense.
On the U.S. election, Putin described Obama's accusations of Russian hacking into Democratic leaders' emails as an attempt to shift the blame for Hillary Clinton's defeat.
Asked how he responded to Obama's accusations when he brought them up in their conversation, Putin said he wouldn't divulge details of a confidential discussion.
He shrugged off Washington's claims of the hackers' Russian affiliation, saying they could be based elsewhere.
"The most important thing is the substance of the information the hackers have uncovered," Putin said, adding that the Democrats should have apologized to the Americans over the "manipulations" the emails revealed.
In response to Obama's comment that "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave" upon seeing recent poll results showing that more than one-third of Republicans view Putin favorably, Putin said Reagan would be happy to see his party win.
"It shows that a significant part of the American people have a similar view about the situation in the world and what we need to do, what the common dangers and problems are," he said.
He hailed Trump for "keenly feeling the public sentiments" to win the vote, adding with a smile that "no one but us expected him to win."
Putin expressed hope that he would meet soon with Trump to discuss how to improve the two countries' relations.
© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.