Russian President Vladimir Putin has brushed off assertions that the Kremlin is meddling in the U.S. presidential election and said that criticism of Moscow during the campaign is "poisoning" bilateral ties.
With less than four weeks before Election Day, Russia's alleged interference has become a recurring theme, emerging most recently in the clash between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during their October 9 televised debate.
Last week, U.S. intelligence officials publicly accused Moscow directly of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee, and of attempts at hacking some state election commissions.
Speaking in Moscow on October 12, Putin repeated comments made by several other top Russian officials that accused U.S. officials of "poisoning our bilateral relations."
"Hysteria has been whipped up to distract the attention of the American people from the essence of what the hackers released," Putin told a business forum. "For some reason nobody talks about this. They talk about who did it. Is it really that important?"
That comment, similar to remarks Putin has made before, appeared aimed at diverting attention from the alleged Russian connection toward the actual content of the e-mails. Among other things, the e-mails leaked from the Democratic National Committee revealed that party leaders heavily favored Clinton over her Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.
"All they do is keep talking about us," Putin said. "Of course it's pleasant for us, but only partly, because all participants are misusing anti-Russian rhetoric and poisoning our bilateral relations."
President Barack Obama's administration signaled on October 11 that it was planning some sort of response that would target Russia or its interests.
Washington and Moscow are at odds over several issues including Syria, where a cease-fire that broke down last month was followed by a withering air assault on rebel-held parts of the city of Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces.
UN humanitarian aid convoys have been suspended into the city since late September when a convoy was destroyed. U.S. officials, and Syrian activists, have publicly blamed Russia for the attack, and U.S. and UN officials suggested it may constitute a war crime.
In his comments, however, Putin repeated Russian denials of involvement in the attack on the convoy, claiming it was carried out by a "terrorist organization."
"We see what's going on. This is complete and wholesale blame placed on Russia for all of the world's sins, for all of its crimes," he said.
Based on reporting by Reuters and AP