Russia savors Mueller’s report but expects tensions to stay

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In this Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, people walk in Red Square on a cold day, with St. Basil's Cathedral in the background, in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Moscow (AP) — Russia savored an “I told you so” moment Monday after special counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Government officials also dismissed the extensive evidence uncovered by Mueller of Russian cyber-meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, insisting that Russia has never interfered in elections in the U.S. or any other countries.

While Mueller found no evidence Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Moscow to sway the election in his favor, he uncovered multi-pronged Russian meddling and indicted 25 Russians on charges of hacking Democratic email accounts and spreading disinformation on social media.

The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected those charges as “ridiculous” and “politically motivated” and denounced Mueller’s investigation as a waste of taxpayer money stemming from the Democrats’ effort to discredit Trump.

“Colossal efforts and significant taxpayers’ funds have been spent to refute a clear fake,” it said.

Russian authorities over the past months have described the Mueller probe in a language strikingly similar to that of Trump, denouncing it as politically driven witch hunt.

“The results of Mueller’s investigation are a disgrace for the U.S. and its political elites,” Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the information committee at the Federation Council, tweeted Monday. “All of the accusations were proved to be trumped up.”

Russian state-owned Channel One suggested that U.S. media had been deliberately whipping up hysteria about possible collusion to turn American 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,” said Channel One’s U.S. correspondent, Yulia Olkhovskaya. “But will the viewers hear the rebuttals now?”

Putin’s spokesman said that Russia wants good relations with the U.S. but that it’s up to Washington to move to repair ties.

Vladimir Pozner, a veteran TV commentator in Russia, said that by lifting the cloud hanging over Trump, Mueller’s report removes a barrier to better U.S-Russia relations.

“It creates a kind of an opening for an improvement of relations, which is badly needed considering the situation today,” Pozner said Monday.

Other Russian officials and commentators held out hope that Trump would now reach out to Moscow, but most also noted that congressional support for sanctions against Russia and political infighting in Washington made any improvements in relations unlikely.

“There is nothing to celebrate here in Russia; the accusations against us remain,” Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee, said. “There’s an opportunity to reset our relations, but the question is whether Trump will take the risk.”