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Putin: US-Russia ties should not be held hostage to Mueller probe

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday described the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Moscow's election meddling as "political games" that should not be permitted to interfere with US-Russia relations.

Asked in a Fox News interview about Mueller's indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking Democratic Party computers in 2016, just three days before his summit with President Donald Trump, Putin said it was not his concern, but rather part of an "internal political struggle."

"I'm not interested in this issue a single bit," he said, speaking through a translator.

"It's the internal political games of the United States."

"Don't make the relationship between Russia and the United States, don't hold it hostage of this internal political struggle," Putin said.

Putin was speaking shortly after his summit with Trump in Helsinki, Finland on Monday, where the question of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race loomed large.

His response echoed Trump's stance on the Mueller probe, which is digging into possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

Trump has repeatedly branded the Mueller probe a "witch hunt".

And in a press conference Monday with Putin at his side, Trump dismissed his own intelligence chiefs' conclusion that Putin himself oversaw the effort to damage Trump's Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

Putin suggested Monday, like Trump has done repeatedly, that Mueller's appointment as an independent prosecutor to pursue the investigation lacks legitimacy.

"It's quite clear to me that this is just an internal political struggle and it's nothing to be proud of for American democracy to use such dirty methods and political rivalry," Putin told Fox.

© 2018 AFP