Vladimir Putin has some harsh words for his critics. In a political conference Thursday in Sochi, the Russian president addressed rumors that he has been interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Russian hackers have been accused of leaking damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee in order to sway the electorate against Hillary Clinton in favor of Republican Donald Trump.
"The number of mythical, dreamt-up problems include the hysteria -- I can't think of another word -- that has broken out in the United States about the influence of Russia on the current elections for the U.S. president," Putin said.
He added: “Does anyone seriously think Russia can somehow influence the choice of the U.S. people? Is the U.S. some kind of banana republic? The United States is a great power. Please correct me if I'm wrong."
U.S. relations with Russia have faltered under the Obama administration, namely over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Russia has been accused of favoring Donald Trump, who has often praised Putin in the past. During the final presidential debate last week, Clinton said Putin would rather have a "puppet" as president of the United States.
Talk of so-called banana republics have been tossed around many times during the 2016 U.S. elections. Earlier this year, Trump said: "This election will determine whether we remain a free country or become a corrupt banana republic." After the Oct. 9 presidential debate, a Clinton campaign manager said: “Trump was talking like he would become some dictator of a banana republic and throw [Clinton] and his political enemies in jail.”
Former Republican Attorney General Michael Mukasey told the Washington Post in an interview on Oct. 10 that "it would be like a banana republic" if Trump followed through on his threat of jailing Clinton. "Putting political opponents in jail for offenses committed in a political setting, even if they are criminal offenses -- and they very well may be -- is something that we don't do here," Mukasey said.
Putin was in the former Olympic city of Sochi discussing global challenges and Russia’s place in a dramatically-changing world with experts of the Valdai club. He was joined by more than 130 experts and political analysts from Russia and other countries.