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Vladimir Putin asks Donald Trump to help restore Russian-U.S. relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked to “restore the framework of bilateral cooperation” with the U.S. in a letter to President-elect Donald Trump — a note the transition team released Friday, the same day the Kremlin leader called American Democrats sore losers.

The letter, written earlier this month, offers Christmas and New Year’s wishes. Mr. Putin then suggests that the two nations find a way to get beyond the loggerheads of the past few years.

“I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able — by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner — to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level,” Mr. Putin said.

Mr. Trump, in a statement, called it “a very nice letter” and said “his thoughts are so correct.”

“I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path,” he said.

During the U.S. presidential election campaign, Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump had positive things to say about each other’s leadership style.

Democrats and the Obama administration have accused Mr. Putin of meddling in the U.S. election to try to sink Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state tried but failed to earn better relations with Russia.

But answering questions Friday from a group of journalists assembled for his annual end-of-year press conference, Mr. Putin said Democrats were wrong to blame “outside factors” for Mrs. Clinton’s loss.

Democrats “are losing on all fronts and looking for scapegoats on whom to lay the blame,” Mr. Putin told reporters, as translated by the Kremlin.

“I think that this is an affront to their own dignity. It is important to know how to lose gracefully,” he said.

Asked specifically to comment on accusations that Russia used state-sponsored hacking to influence results of the election, Mr. Putin denied responsibility before noting that arguments about “who did it” are less important than what the hacked emails showed.

“These days, it is very easy to designate a random country as the source of attack while being in a completely different location,” Mr. Putin said of the hackers. “But is this important? I think the most important thing is the information that the hackers revealed to the public,” he said.

He also said the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz over the information vindicates its authenticity.

“What is the best proof that the hackers uncovered truthful information? The proof is that after the hackers demonstrated how public opinion had been manipulated within the Democratic Party, against one candidate rather than the other, against candidate [Bernard] Sanders, the Democratic National Committee chairperson resigned. This means she admitted that the hackers revealed the truth,” Mr. Putin said.

Security analysts believe state-sponsored hackers penetrated the DNC and the email accounts of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign manager, John Podesta, before passing along their contents to WikiLeaks for publication before the Nov. 8 election. President Obama said last week that he has “great confidence” in intelligence reports that links those hacks and others to Russian actors and that their actions were aimed at having Mr. Trump win the White House race.

“This happened at the highest levels of the Russian government,” Mr. Obama said last week. “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin.”

A day earlier, CrowdStrike, a security firm hired to examine the DNC breach, said the perpetrators used a specific strain of malware used exclusively for nearly a decade in cyberattacks attributed to Russia, including a previously undisclosed hacking campaign in recent months against the Ukrainian military.

The letter was released and the Moscow news conference was held a day after Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump suggested that they might push to expand their countries’ nuclear capabilities.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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