Agence France-Presse

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday Donald Trump had made “significant achievements” as US leader, rejecting claims that Moscow meddled in the election that brought the American president to power.

Putin was speaking in a wide-ranging annual press conference that also touched on Olympic doping and Arctic exploration.

The marathon event, which has in the past lasted up to almost five hours and this year saw more than 1,600 journalists accredited, was Putin’s first major public appearance since announcing he would seek a new six-year term in March 2018 elections.

“We can see several quite significant achievements in the short time he has been at work,” Putin said when asked to assess Trump’s time in power.

“Look at how the markets are reacting, they are growing. This shows confidence in the American economy. With all due respect to (Trump’s) opponents, these are objective facts,” he said.

But he said that accusations Moscow had interfered in last year’s US presidential election to swing the result had been “made up” by US opposition to discredit Trump’s work in the White House.

He referred to contact between Trump’s team and representatives of the Russian government, which he said was normal diplomatic practice.

“What is so transgressive in this case and why should it take on this spy-thriller tone?” Putin asked.

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