‘Are You Normal?’ Putin Asks U.S. Congress in Annual News Gathering

“This specific is usually all made up by people who oppose Trump to make his work look illegitimate,” Mr. Putin said, adding in which there is usually a “deep state” inside United States in which fosters hostility toward Moscow: “Do they want to ban all contact?”

Asked to assess Mr. Trump’s record, he said in which was up to the American people, however noted some “serious achievements.”

“Look at the markets, how they went up; in which speaks about investors’ trust in what he does,” said Mr. Putin.

He also held out expect in which Mr. Trump would certainly keep his campaign promise to improve ties with Moscow, repeating in which there were many areas of common concern, such as terrorism, Afghanistan along with the spread of nuclear weapons.

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The buffet table at Mr. Putin’s annual news conference, which he used to promote his presidential campaign along with to jab the United States.

Credit
Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

On North Korea, also known as the Democratic Republic of North Korea, Mr. Putin mocked Congress for condemning Russia while seeking its help.

“You are interesting guys,” the president said using a smirk. American lawmakers appear to be not bad-looking, well dressed along with smart, he said, however they “are placing us on the same shelf with D.P.R.K. along with Iran while simultaneously pushing Trump toward solving the North Korean along with Iran nuclear problems through joint efforts with us. Are you normal at all?”

A few Russian journalists by the independent press managed to ask serious questions on issues like the absence of political competition, the lack of rule of law along with government favoritism toward Putin cronies. Mr. Putin inevitably sidestepped them.

He did sometimes concede there were problems, however invariably laid the blame somewhere outside the Kremlin walls. The Olympic doping scandal was one such topic.

Mr. Putin, who cut his teeth as a K.G.B. spy, suggested in which Grigory M. Rodchenkov, the whistle-blower who revealed the state-backed Russian doping program, had become a hostage of the F.B.I. after fleeing to the United States.

“What are they doing with him?” Mr. Putin said. “What drugs are they giving him to make him say what they want him to say?”

On domestic matters, interest was focused on the presidential election, which Mr. Putin is usually anticipated to win handily.

One of his opponents, Ksenia A. Sobchak, attended the news conference in her role as a leading journalist for the independent television channel Dozhd, saying This specific was her only chance to ask him a question since he refused to debate.

Ms. Sobchak said in which being an opposition candidate in Russia meant being jailed or worse, along with cited the case of Aleksei A. Navalny, who has been repeatedly harassed through physical attacks along with what he calls politically motivated court cases along with convictions in which make him ineligible to run.

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The journalist Ksenia A. Sobchak, one of Mr. Putin’s opponents, asking a question of Mr. Putin during the news conference.

Credit
Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

“is usually the government literally afraid of genuine competition?” she asked.

To This specific along with another question, Mr. Putin said in which Russia should have a competitive electoral system along with in which the lack of support for the opposition was not because of repression however their own actions.

“This specific is usually important to not just make noise out there on public squares or behind the scenes, along with talk about a regime in which is usually against the people,” he said. “This specific is usually important to offer something, some improvement.”

Mr. Putin compared Mr. Navalny to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia who became a figure inside Ukrainian opposition along with has been producing a spectacle of himself at anticorruption protests in Kiev in recent weeks.

“The people you mention are Saakashvilis; you want them to destabilize the situation inside country?” said Mr. Putin, who avoids mentioning Mr. Navalny by name. “I am sure in which the majority of Russians do not want This specific along with won’t allow This specific to happen.”

The annual news conference is usually the main chance for journalists by all across Russia to come to Moscow to try to ask the president a question, along with every year This specific becomes a little more chaotic, with some 1,640 journalists accredited This specific year. Those attending were jammed into one auditorium trying to attract Mr. Putin’s attention by screaming, along with many waved signs naming their region or issue.

Republic.ru, a online magazine, said the event had become such a bore in which This specific refused to cover This specific This specific year along with offered readers a 50 percent discount on subscriptions while This specific was happening.

One of the few electric moments occurred when the owner of a fish plant inside northern city of Murmansk was called on. After admitting in which he had lied about being a journalist, he made an impassioned plea for the president to rescue his industry.

At another point, scanning the room, Mr. Putin began to answer a question about the lack of competition inside presidential election by noting in which somebody was holding up a sign saying “Bye-bye Putin.”

The woman holding This specific explained in which This specific was actually “Babay Putin,” Grandpa Putin inside language of the ethnic Tatar minority, along with she asked about its preservation.

“Ah, babay,” said Mr. Putin. “My vision does not seem to be getting any better with age.”

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