WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin said he barely interacted with Michael Flynn, who was fired this year as White House national security adviser, at a dinner in Moscow in 2015. The two sat next to each other.
Putin spoke about Flynn in an interview conducted in Moscow on Friday with NBC's Megyn Kelly, which was broadcast Sunday night.
The Russian leader said that at the anniversary party for Russian TV network RT in December 2015, his interactions with Flynn were brief and superficial.
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was paid $45,000 to speak at the event.
"When I came to the event for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me there was a gentleman sitting on one side," Putin said. Photos show Putin flanked by Flynn and Emir Kusturica, a Serbian filmmaker.
"I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterward I was told, 'You know there was an American gentleman. He was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services.' That's it. I didn't even really talk to him. That's the extent of my acquaintance with Mr. Flynn," Putin said.
Flynn has become a central figure in investigations by Congress and the FBI into possible ties between Russia, the Trump administration and the Trump campaign.
An adviser to Trump's campaign and prominent speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn was fired less than four weeks after Trump's inauguration after claims that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, during the presidential transition.
Flynn is one of a number of current and former Trump associates at the center of investigations into whether anyone close to the president helped Russia interfere in the U.S. election, and whether any crimes were committed.
Putin ridiculed the allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, accusing the Democrats of trying to shift blame for their defeat.
Putin said the claims of Russian interference in the U.S. election contained "nothing concrete, only assumptions."
Asked about the "fingerprints," IP addresses allegedly belonging to Russian hackers, he said those could have been easily rigged and couldn't stand as credible evidence.
"What fingerprints?" Putin said sarcastically. "Hoof prints? Horn prints? Technology experts can invent anything and put the blame on anyone."
In a sign of exasperation, Putin compared what he described as the obsessive U.S. focus on alleged Russian election interference to anti-Semitism.
"It reminds me of anti-Semitism," he said. "A dumb man who can't do anything would blame the Jews for everything."
Kelly also asked the Russian president what kind of relationship he had with the American president and if he had any damaging information on him.
"That's another load of nonsense," Putin said. "We had no relationship at all. There was a time when he came to Russia … but I never met him. … Have you all lost your senses over there?"
The Associated Press and staff writer Pamela Huey contributed to this report.