Vladimir Putin leaped to Donald Trump’s defense today after the president was impeached, saying the claims against him are ‘far-fetched’ and ‘made up’.
The Russian president told an end-of-year news conference that Trump was likely to survive a Senate trial after the House of Representatives voted to charge the president on two counts – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Echoing the White House’s language, Putin said the ‘party that lost the election is continuing the fight by other means’.
Putin also likened the impeachment to the Robert Mueller probe into Trump’s alleged links to Russia, which threw up no hard evidence of collusion.
‘It still needs to go through the Senate, where the Republicans have a majority,’ Putin said in Moscow today.
Predicting that Trump would stay in office, he said: ‘It is hardly likely that they are going to push out of office a representative of their own party, on grounds that are absolutely made up.’
Putin added that Russia is ready to agree on a new START arms treaty with the United States, but that there has been no response to Russian proposals.
The Russian leader has cast a long shadow over US politics since Russia was accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential race.
US intelligence services believe that Russia tried to help Trump win, but Trump himself has queried the findings of his own agents.
Trump has long faced suspicion at home over his links to Putin and perhaps the most notorious moment of their relationship was the 2018 Helsinki summit at which Trump backed up Putin’s denials of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The president said ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be’ Russia, sparking a wave of condemnation at home. He later said he misspoke.
The two leaders have found themselves at odds on other geopolitical crises including Venezuela and Iran.
Trump has also promoted an alternative, but widely discredited theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The president mentioned the theory in his notorious July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky which is at the heart of the impeachment case.
In the call, Trump told Zelensky to launch investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference and also into Joe and Hunter Biden.
Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, while Joe Biden was involved in pressuring Ukraine to fire a prosecutor when he was vice president.
The articles of impeachment allege that Trump was abusing his power for personal gain by pressuring Ukraine to launch a probe.
Trump freely admits that he told Zelensky to launch a probe, but denies pressuring Ukraine with a ‘quid pro quo’.
Russia’s ties with the West have remained at post-Cold War lows, and Western penalties have continued to stymie the country’s economic growth.
In addition, fears of a new arms race have grown after the U.S. formally withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty in August, a move it had been signalling since last year.