Donald Trump would be unlikely to have used prostitutes in Moscow because as the patron of the Miss Universe beauty contest he is accustomed to being around attractive women, Vladimir Putin has said.
In his first public comment on claims the Russian security services blackmailed Mr Trump with a sex tape filmed in a Moscow hotel when he visited the city in 2013, Mr Putin said the story was “nonsense” and that the people behind it were “worse than prostitutes”.
Claims that Russia holds kompromat, or “compromising material,” on Mr Trump emerged in a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, that was published by Buzzfeed last week.
The report, which was commissioned by opponents of Mr Trump in America, also cites highly placed sources in Russia who claim that Mr Trump gathers intelligence for the Kremlin on Russian businessmen in the United States and that his team was aware of a Russian hacking effort to smear Hillary Clinton.
Speaking at a press conference with Molodovia’s President Igor Dodon in the Kremlin on Tuesday, Mr Putin said the dossier was “an obvious fake” and ridiculed the suggestion that the Russian secret services “chase after every American billionaire”.
He also suggested Mr Trump would not have fallen for a honey trap if one had been laid, asking: “He arrived here and immediately ran off to meet Moscow prostitutes?”
“This is an adult and, moreover, a man who for many years has organised beauty contests. He socialised with the most beautiful women in the world. I can hardly imagine he rushed to the hotel to meet our girls of lower social responsibility -even though they are the best in the world, of course.”
“We are witnessing an ongoing acute political struggle in the US, whose task is to undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect,” he said. “The people doing this are doing enormous damage to American national interests.”
Earlier, Russia’s foreign minister branded the former MI6 officer who authored a report a “swindler” who trades in “absurdities”.
Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday called veteran British spy Mr Steele “some kind of runaway swindler from MI6” and his explosive report on the Russian security service a “rude provocation”.
Mr Steele, who served with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in Russia in the 1990s, has been in hiding since a report he wrote detailing allegations that Russia has used a sex tape to blackmail Mr Trump was published last week.
Former colleagues of Mr Steele have spoken highly of his professionalism and say he would be unlikely to file any intelligence he did not believe deserved attention.
Speaking at his annual press conference in Moscow, Mr Lavrov called the claims in the report “absurdities” and “fakes”.
He also said US intelligence agencies who had tried to prove a link between Russia and Mr Trump had drawn a blank and should be fired.
Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov both made clear they hope to strike a more cooperative relationship with Mr Trump than with his predecessor.
Mr Lavrov said the outgoing administration had pursued a “messianic” policy of trying to force Western values on the rest of the world, and blamed it for instability in the Middle East and other regions.
He said Russia hopes Mr Trump’s team “will not engage in moralising and will try to understand the interests of their partners just as they clearly uphold their own interests”.
He added that Trump administration officials will be invited to Russian-Turkish brokered peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Kazakhstan next week.
On Monday Mr Trump said in comments to the Times that the US might ease sanctions against Russia in exchange for a nuclear arms reduction deal.
Mr Lavrov said he interpreted that as indicating a willingness to discuss sanctions alongside arms control talks, rather than an offer to cancel the embargoes in exchange for such a deal.