Vladimir Putin rebuffed questions of whether he knew about the elaborate campaign to meddle in the 2016 election that resulted in the indictment of 13 Russian nationals, telling NBC in an interview clip released Friday that "these are not my problems."
The foreign leader, in a wide-ranging sit-down with NBC host Megyn Kelly taped over two days last week in Russia, refuted the notion that the Kremlin had any involvement in the online campaign, which special counsel Robert Mueller brought charges against last month as part of the federal probe into election interference.
"They could just as easily have been the names of some Americans who are sitting here and interfering in your own political process," Putin said in an interview set to air Friday night.
Kelly fired back at the unsubstantiated assertion: “But it wasn’t Americans. It was Russians.”
The Russian president, who has repeatedly denied attempts by his country to interfere in the American electoral process, said he was not concerned about the matter.
“You mentioned a number of names, some individuals. And you’re telling me that they’re Russians. So what?" Putin said. "Maybe being Russian, they’re actually working for some kind of American company. Perhaps one of them used to work for one of the candidates. I have no idea."
Putin added: "These are not my problems.”
In a separate clip of the interview released earlier this week, Putin told Kelly he had no plans to extradite the individuals charged by Mueller's team over the indictment.
“Never," Putin said when pressed on the possibility. "Russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone.”
Mueller’s office on Feb. 16 unveiled an indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three foreign entities on charges pertaining efforts to meddle in the 2016 campaign.
The indictment, which included charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft, depicted an elaborate web of initiatives aimed at influencing the presidential race. Documents released by federal prosecutors revealed an extensive campaign that involved hundreds of individuals and cost millions of dollars.
The Kremlin in February pushed back on the charges, with a spokesman saying it showed "no indications that the Russian state could have been involved."