September 28, 2018 / 10:23 PM / 22 days ago

Lavrov notes Trump blamed China, not Russia, for U.S. election meddling

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took pleasure in pointing out on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump this week accused China, not Russia, of interfering in U.S. elections.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Trump on Wednesday accused the Chinese government of seeking to influence the Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections against his Republican Party. China has denied the allegation.

“This time he blamed China only for interference, he did not mention Russia - well he didn’t mention us before,” Lavrov told reporters at the United Nations.

He then smiled and added: “We are the last people interested in interfering in interior affairs.”

The Russian foreign minister, a veteran diplomat with a puckish sense of humor, was underlining the fact that Trump has been reluctant to blame Russia for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election that brought him to the White House.

A January 2017 report by U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign aimed at undermining faith in U.S. democratic processes and hurting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. It also found that Russia had sought to help Republican Trump’s candidacy.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s election campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has denied any such collusion and Russia has denied such interference.

Asked separately if Russia was luring farmers from South Africa, which is weighing whether its constitution needs to be changed to allow land expropriation, Lavrov replied: “No, this time we are busy with meddling with Catalonia elections,” prompting laughter. “No time for this, you know, it’s too far.”

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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