A week after initial excerpts of Megan Kelly's interview Russian President Vladimir Putin were released, the Russian presidential office published the full transcript of the full interview on its website on Saturday morning, specifying the conversation took place in two seatings, in the Kremlin on March 1 and in Kaliningrad on March 2.
As we noted last week from the initial excerpts, despite Mueller's 37-page indictment, Putin said he has seen no evidence thus far that the alleged meddling broke any laws.
"We in Russia cannot prosecute anyone as long as they have not violated Russian law... At least send us a piece of paper... Give us a document. Give us an official request. And we'll take a look at it."
"Could anyone really believe that Russia, thousands of miles away... influenced the outcome of the election? Doesn't that sound ridiculous even to you?" Putin asked...
"It's not our goal to interfere. We do not see what goal we would accomplish by interfering. There's no goal," Putin said.
Putin said Russia has neither the tools nor the will to meddle in elections. He repeatedly complained during the interview that Washington has brushed off Russian initiatives to work together on cybersecurity issues.
In the most aggressive and controversial section of the entire, often-combative, 90-minute interview with NBC television, Putin suggested that we do not know if these people were Russians, that "they may have been Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews", and that the whole operations may have been a false flag: "maybe, the US paid them for this."
"Why have you decided the Russian authorities, myself included, gave anybody permission to do this?" Putin asked
"So what if they're Russians?" Putin said of the allegations.
"No, this is not true. If they violated Russian law, we will prosecute them. If they did not, there is nothing to prosecute them for in Russia. But after all, you must understand that people in Russia do not live under US law but under Russian law. This is how it is. If you want to reach an agreement with us, let us negotiate, choose the subject, make an agreement and sign it. But you refuse to do this. "
"I am telling you for the third time: we have proposed working together on cyberspace issues. But the US refuses to work like this and instead throws 13 Russians to the media."
"Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked: maybe they have dual citizenship or a Green Card; maybe, the US paid them for this.
How can you know that? I do not know either. "
Additionally, Putin said “So What?” nine times throughout the interview, all in relation to the allegations.
On whether there is actual evidence of meddling, and whether Putin will extradite the accused, here is the key segment:
Megyn Kelly: What have you done to satisfy yourself that it was not Russians? You suggest maybe it was Americans, maybe it was the French. What have you done to satisfy yourself that the 13 Russian nationals who have just been indicted, those three Russian companies, including, as you pointed out, some of your close friends, were not behind this? This has caused an international incident.
Vladimir Putin: I know that they do not represent the Russian state or the Russian government. And I have no idea what they did and what they were guided by. Even if they did something, then our American colleagues should not just say something in interviews with the media but give us specific data, with proof. We are ready to consider it and talk about it. But you know what I would like to say…
Megyn Kelly: That would be great. Will you extradite them to the United States?
Vladimir Putin: Never. Just like the United States, Russia does not extradite its citizens anywhere. Have you ever extradited any of your citizens? This is my first point.
Second, I do not believe anything illegal was committed.
And, third, we have repeatedly suggested that the United States and Russia establish relations in this area and sign a corresponding interstate treaty on extraditing criminals. The United States has evaded this proposal and does not want to sign it with Russia. What are you hoping for? That we will extradite people to you whereas you will not? This is not a proper way to go about international affairs.
Putin claimed that the United States interferes in Russian elections "all the time" but that it was "impossible for us" to do the same. "First, we have principles whereby we do not allow others to interfere in our domestic affairs and do not get into the affairs of others....Secondly, we don't have this quantity of tools," he said.
And the punchline, the part that Putin explicitly wanted conveyed to the American people on the asymmetric nature of information warfare, and the response he got from America on interference: "Yes, we do interfere, but we are entitled to do so, because we are spreading democracy, and you are not, and so you cannot do it.“ Considering that just last month former CIA chief James Woolsey admitted precisely that, perhaps Putin is telling the truth...
There is more to it. Please listen to me and take to your viewers and listeners what I am about to say. We are holding discussions with our American friends and partners, people who represent the government by the way, and when they claim that some Russians interfered in the US elections, we tell them (we did so fairly recently at a very high level): ”But you are constantly interfering in our political life.“ Would you believe it, they are not even denying it.
Do you know what they told us last time? They said, ”Yes, we do interfere, but we are entitled to do so, because we are spreading democracy, and you are not, and so you cannot do it.“ Do you think this is a civilised and modern approach to international affairs?
Yesterday, you and I talked about nuclear weapons, and that once the United States and the Soviet Union realised that they were moving towards possible mutual destruction, they agreed on rules of conduct in the security sphere given the availability of weapons of mass destruction. Let us now agree on how to behave in cyberspace, which never used to have such a big role and scope.
Full Interview below (select English Subtitles). The "jews" comment begins around 48:00...
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