Russian officials urge Washington-Moscow reset after Mueller findings

By Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press

Russian officials exulted in state media after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s involvement in the US presidential election did not find evidence of collusion.

Wrapping up the 22-month investigation, Mr Mueller’s report found no evidence that US President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election.

Mr Mueller said in a passage from the report quoted by US attorney general William Barr that there was no evidence that Mr Trump “was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference”.

But the released summary did not clear the president of improper behaviour regarding Russia.

Until Monday, there was little to no coverage in Russia of the Mueller investigation.

Russian media did not closely follow all the leaks that accompanied the probe, but referred to the investigation from time to time as an example of what they described as US hysteria against Russia.

Russian officials and state media, who have vehemently denied that the Kremlin wanted Trump to win and was helping him in the campaign, on Monday relished the news.

“The results of Mueller’s investigation are a disgrace for the US and its political elites,” Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the information committee at the Federation Council, tweeted on Monday.

“All of the accusations were proved to be trumped up.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had a more muted reaction on Monday, saying that Russia has never interfered in elections in other countries and “doesn’t intend to do so”.

President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there,” he said.

Thirty-four people, including six Trump aides and advisers, were charged in the investigation.

Twenty-five are Russians accused of election interference either through hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.

Russian authorities over the past months portrayed the Mueller probe as a witch hunt against Trump and a tool of the Democratic Party to fan the flames of the anti-Russian sentiment in the US.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Federation Council, on Monday described the probe and the discussions around it as “two years of incessant lies”.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last year (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

State-owned Channel One on its morning news show suggested that US media had been consciously whipping up the hysteria about possible collusion in order to sway the public opinion against Russia.

“There were so many fake scoops: the one about the non-existent back channel between Washington and Moscow, the one about the so-called Russia Dossier with the Kremlin’s alleged compromising information on Trump,” Channel One’s US correspondent said.

“But will the viewers hear the rebuttals now?”

The conclusions of the probe led some to believe that Mr Trump will have a free hand now to improve ties with Russia.

“There’s an opportunity to reset our relations but the question is whether Trump will take the risk,” Mr Kosachev said.