Putin: Trump’s impeachment far-fetched, Senate will acquit
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Putin: Trump’s impeachment far-fetched, Senate will acquit

Russian leader, in annual news conference, claims ‘party that lost 2016 election is continuing the fight by other means’

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that US President Donald Trump’s impeachment is far-fetched and that the US Senate will reject the motion.

Putin said Thursday at his annual news conference in Moscow that the move is a continuation of the Democrats’ fight against Trump.

“The party that lost the [2016] election is continuing the fight by other means,” Putin said.

He likened Trump’s impeachment to the earlier US probe into collusion with Russia, which Putin downplayed as being groundless.

US President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at Kellogg Arena, December 18, 2019, in Battle Creek, Michigan (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Putin noted that the impeachment motion “is yet to pass the Senate where the Republicans have a majority.” He added that “they will be unlikely to remove a representative of their own party from office on what seems to me an absolutely far-fetched reason.”

Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives, becoming only the third American chief executive to be formally charged under the Constitution’s ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The historic vote split along party lines Wednesday night in the US, much the way it has divided the nation, over a charge that the 45th president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House then approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation. The articles of impeachment, the political equivalent of an indictment, now go to the Senate for trial.

Putin earlier opened the marathon news conference on another topic, saying that global climate change poses new challenges to Russia. He said that global warming could threaten Russian Arctic cities and towns built on permafrost.

The Russian leader added that climate changes could trigger fires, devastating floods and other negative consequences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, arrives for his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Putin emphasized that Russia has abided by the Paris agreement intended to slow down global warming. At the same time, he noted that factors behind global climate change have remained unknown and hard to predict.

Putin, who has been in power for two decades, also hailed the economic achievements of his rule. He emphasized that Russia has become the world’s largest grain exporter, surpassing the US and Canada — a dramatic change compared to the Soviet Union that heavily depended on grain imports.

The Russian leader also pointed at industry modernization, saying that three quarters of industrial equipment is no older than 12 years.

He said that the country has built three new airports, 12 new railway stations and the number of major highways has doubled.

The Russian economy had suffered a double blow of a drop in global oil prices and Western sanctions that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. It has seen a slow recovery since 2017 after a two-year stagnation.

Russia’s ties with the West have remained at post-Cold War lows, and Western penalties have continued to stymie the country’s economic growth.

Putin voiced hope for further moves to settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine following his talks in Paris on December 9 with the leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at a Ukraine Belarus forum in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, October 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

He said that the 2015 peace agreement signed in Minsk and brokered by France and Germany must be observed, rejecting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s push for revising it.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine that flared up in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea has killed more than 14,000 and ravaged Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

The Minsk deal envisaged that Ukraine can regain control over the border with Russia in the separatist-held regions only after they are granted broad self-rule and hold local elections. The agreement was a diplomatic coup for Russia, ensuring that the rebel regions get a broad authority and resources to survive on their own without cross-border support.

Zelensky pushed for tweaking the timeline laid out in the accord so that Ukraine gets control of its border first before local elections are held, but Putin firmly rejected that.

“There is nothing but the Minsk agreement,” Putin said. “If we start revising the Minsk agreement, it will lead to deadlock.”

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