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The Latest: Putin ridicules US focus on ambassador contacts

Russian President Vladimir Putin answers a question at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St.Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 2, 2017. Putin has ridiculed the U.S. focus on Russian ambassador's contacts with members of President Donald Trump's team, saying that the envoy was only doing his job. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The Latest on St. Petersburg economic forum (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the U.S. focus on the Russian ambassador’s contacts with members of President Donald Trump’s team, saying that the envoy was only doing his job.

Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said Friday that it is Ambassador Sergei Kislyak’s duty to maintain contacts with various people in Washington.

Kislyak’s meetings with members of Trump’s team have been a focus of the congressional investigation.

Putin insisted that it was perfectly normal for Kislyak to try to establish contacts and discuss future ties, adding that he hadn’t even started to discuss specifics. He described the focus on Kislyak’s contacts as “catastrophic nonsense.”

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4:45 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election, saying the claims lack substance.

Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin says that the claims contained “nothing concrete, only assumptions.” He added that IP addresses allegedly belonging to Russian hackers could have been easily rigged and couldn’t stand as evidence.

U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party emails, helping Donald Trump’s election victory, and the congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia have broken the Kremlin’s hopes for a detente with Washington.

Putin attributed the accusations of Russian interference to the Democrats’ anger over losing the vote, adding that Trump won because he has been more successful in his campaign.

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4:25 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to assuage concerns caused by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, calling for a constructive dialogue on efforts needed to curb global warming.

Speaking Friday at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin avoided criticizing Trump for the move that has caused international opprobrium.

He underlined the importance of the Paris climate accord, but noted that it’s a framework agreement offering a broad room for maneuver for each signatory nation.

Putin also said that Trump’s promise to negotiate new conditions for the U.S. leaves hope for reaching a compromise before the Paris deal is set to take effect in 2021. Putin added that U.S. participation is essential for the success of global efforts.

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3 p.m.

President Vladimir Putin has urged U.S. businessmen to use their influence to help normalize Russia-U.S. relations.

Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said relations between Moscow and Washington are now at their lowest point since Cold War times.

During a panel meeting, Putin called on the U.S. participants of the forum to “help restore a normal political dialogue … help a newly elected president and new administration.”

He also pledged to help improve conditions for U.S. business in Russia.

Russia’s hopes for better ties with President Donald Trump’s administration have been dashed by the congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

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