Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump on May 30 both dismissed allegations of Russian meddling in last year's U.S. presidential campaign as "fiction" or "fake news" created by Democrats to explain their defeat in the election.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Putin once again denied allegations of Russian involvement in the hacking of Democratic National Committee e-mails that were leaked last year and proved embarrassing for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Putin asserted that the allegations arose because of the "desire of those who lost the U.S. elections to improve their standing."
"They want to explain to themselves and prove to others that they had nothing to do with it, their policy was right, they did everything well, but someone from the outside cheated them," he said. "It's not so. They simply lost, and they must acknowledge it."
Putin claimed that U.S. Democrats created what he called a "fiction" about Russia because they "hate to acknowledge that they indeed lost because the person who won was closer to the people and had a better understanding of what people wanted."
Earlier in the day, Trump wrote on Twitter that Russian officials "must be laughing at the U.S. and how a lame excuse for why the Democrats lost the election has taken over the Fake News."
Trump often refers to independent media reports as "fake news." But most media reports have focused on the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies, released in January, that Putin ordered an "influence campaign" seeking to undermine faith in the U.S. electoral system and denigrate Clinton. The assessment said that Russia developed a clear preference for Trump.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate those allegations and whether Trump's campaign associates may have colluded with Russia during the campaign and afterwards.
Putin's hopes for a new era of better relations under Trump have been undermined by the investigations and the attention being paid to the issue in the United States.
In the Le Figaro interview, Putin said the accusations of meddling leveled at Russia have destabilized international affairs.
He argued that trying to influence the U.S. vote would make no sense for Moscow because, in the end, even a strong president cannot overcome the bias against Russia in the Washington power structure.
"Russia has never engaged in that. We don't need it and it makes no sense to do it," he said. "Presidents come and go, but policies don't change. You know why? Because the power of bureaucracy is very strong."
Putin suggested that what he called Trump's strong desire to improve ties with Russia during the campaign was overwhelmed after he took office by the Washington bureaucracy's refusal to give up what he called its long-standing antagonism toward Russia.
"This is what happens with every administration. Changing things is not easy, and I say this without any irony. It is not that someone does not want to, but because it is a hard thing to do," he said.
The Russian leader added that he agrees with a statement Trump made during the campaign that anyone could have been behind the hacking of the Democratic e-mails, not just Russia.
"Maybe someone lying in his bed invented something or maybe someone deliberately inserted a USB with a Russian citizen's signature," Putin said. "Anything can be done in this virtual world."
Trump asserted during a September presidential debate that, "It could be Russia, but it could be China, could also be lots of other people. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."
In January, however, Trump's incoming chief of staff said that Trump "accepts the fact" that "entities in Russia" were behind the intrusions into the Democratic Party organization.
Putin said he believes that the interest in Washington in investigating ties between Trump and Russia will eventually fade, enabling relations to get better.
"It will pass, everything passes, and this will pass as well," he said. "I am cautiously optimistic, and I think that we can and should be able to reach agreements on key issues."
With reporting by Le Figaro, AP, TASS, and Interfax