Russian Election Meddling Allegations Were 'Peak Absurdity,' Putin Says, Claims Mueller Report Ended 'In Nothing'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has complained that American sanctions remain in place on his country, despite the conclusion of the special counsel investigation into 2016 presidential election meddling by Moscow.

Speaking to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday ahead of his visit to the country, Putin called for sanctions to be revoked and falsely claimed that Robert Mueller's probe found no evidence of Russian wrongdoing, Tass reported.

Russia was accused of directing online disinformation campaigns to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. Hackers linked to Russian military intelligence also breached Democratic campaign organizations and stole sensitive files that were later leaked.

It has also been alleged that Russian operatives offered President Donald Trump's campaign dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in a bid to boost his chances of victory, a proposal to which Trump's team was open.

The Kremlin is also accused of attempting to compromise the 2018 midterm elections in a similar fashion. The Russian government has repeatedly denied any attempts to undermine the U.S. democratic process, and Putin told Corriere della Sera that the allegations represented "peak absurdity."

But Mueller said different. His final report described "sweeping and systematic" Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 race. Mueller and his team ultimately indicted 34 people and three Russian businesses linked to these campaigns. Charges ranged from computer hacking to conspiracy and financial crimes.

The report did not conclude there had been collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, though it did show the willingness of Trump's team to accept assistance from a malign foreign actor. The president has claimed "total exoneration," but this is incorrect.

Putin has previously dismissed any suggestion of undue collusion with Trump or interference in U.S. elections. He stuck to the line in his interview, falsely claiming "it is well known" that Mueller's investigation ended "in nothing."

"The conclusions of the Mueller commission about the absence of such conspiracy are understandable, " he added. "However, the sanctions that were imposed against our country under the pretext of these accusations are still in effect."

U.S. lawmakers introduced sanctions on Russia and prominent regime figures as part of an effort to deter the Kremlin from foreign interference. Trump has joined some congressional efforts to punish Russia, though at times has been publicly reluctant to do so.

Other sanctions have been introduced in response to Moscow's support for President Bashar al-Assad in the war in Syria and for its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin, Russia investigation, sanctions, Robert Mueller
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a forum in Moscow, Russia, on July 3, 2019. EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/AFP/Getty