US & Canada

Russia's Putin calls leaked Trump memos 'utter nonsense'

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a joint press conference with his Moldovan counterpart following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 17, 2017 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Putin spoke at a press conference after a meeting with the president of Moldova in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described allegations his country holds compromising material on US President-elect Donald Trump as "utter nonsense".

Mr Putin questioned what reason Russian intelligence would have had to spy on Mr Trump before he entered politics.

He said those making the allegations were "worse than prostitutes".

Memos published last week alleged Mr Trump's election team colluded with Russia which also had salacious videos of his private life.

The allegations claim Russia has damaging information about the US president-elect's business interests, and that Mr Trump had been filmed with prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.

Mr Trump has dismissed the memos, said to have been prepared by a former British spy, as "fake news".

Speaking in Moscow, Mr Putin also said the published documents were "clearly fakes", published by those trying to "undermine the legitimacy of the elected president".

"When Trump came to Moscow, he was not a political figure, we were not even aware of his political ambitions," Mr Putin said.

"Does somebody think that our secret services are chasing every American billionaire? Of course not. It is utter nonsense."

He added that he did not see why Mr Trump would rush to meet prostitutes in Moscow, given he was organising beauty pageants and meeting "the most beautiful women in the world".

"I find it hard to imagine he ran to a hotel to meet our girls of 'low social responsibility'... though they are of course also the best in the world. But I doubt Trump took that bait."

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Media captionDonald Trump said the information was 'fake'

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the UK ex-spy said to have prepared the memos is "some runaway crook from the MI6".

Christopher Steele, who runs a London-based intelligence firm, was highly regarded by his bosses when he worked for the British foreign spy agency MI6, sources have told the BBC.

US intelligence agencies considered the claims relevant enough to brief both Mr Trump and President Barack Obama.

Mr Trump accused US intelligence of leaking the content from a classified briefing - a claim denied by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence.

Image caption Christopher Steele is believed to have left his home last week

Mr Putin also said reports that Russian hackers had interfered in the US election were "fake news", though he told people to keep in mind that "the hackers didn't make anything up - whoever they were - they just uncovered material".

The hacking scandal dominated the US election campaign, with US spy agencies concluding Russia was behind the hacking and release of Democratic Party emails intended to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Russia has consistently denied it.

'Restart a dialogue'

Signalling optimism that the US-Russia relationship will improve under the new administration, Mr Lavrov said he was encouraged by some pragmatic comments from the Trump team so far.

He said that Moscow was ready to co-operate with the new administration on key issues including nuclear weapons and Syria. US representatives have been invited to Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan next week but are yet to respond, he added.

"I am convinced we will be able to restart a dialogue on strategic stability with Washington that was destroyed along with everything else by the Obama administration," Mr Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

US-Russia relations have worsened significantly in recent years over the war in Ukraine, the Syrian conflict and cyber-hacking.

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