■ Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin says Pres­i­dent Trump was im­peached for “far-fetched” rea­sons and pre­dicts he will be ac­quit­ted by Se­nate.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Vladimir Isachenkov and Har­riet Mor­ris

MOS­COW — Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said Thurs­day that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was im­peached for “far­fetched” rea­sons, call­ing the move by Democrats a con­tin­u­a­tion of their fight against the Re­pub­li­can leader.

“It’s sim­ply a con­tin­u­a­tion of in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal strug­gle,” Putin said at his end-of-year news con­fer­ence in Mos­cow. “The party that lost the (2016) elec­tion, the Demo­cratic Party, is try­ing to achieve re­sults by other means.”

He likened Trump’s im­peach­ment to the ear­lier U.S. probe into col­lu­sion with Rus­sia, which Putin played down as ground­less. For­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller con­cluded this year that Rus­sian in­ter­fered in the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in a “sweep­ing and sys­tem­atic fash­ion.”

“Now they in­vented some sort of pres­sure on Ukraine,” Putin said, re­fer­ring to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Trump’s try­ing to en­list the pres­i­dent of that coun­try to an­nounce in­ves­ti­ga­tions of his po­lit­i­cal ri­val as he with­held U.S. aid to Kyiv.

Trump on Wed­nes­day be­came the third U.S. pres­i­dent to be im­peached. The vote in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives split along party lines over charges of abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of Congress.

Not­ing the Re­pub­li­cans have a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, where a trial of Trump will be con­ducted, Putin said “they will be un­likely to re­move a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their own party from of­fice on what seems to me ab­so­lutely far-fetched rea­sons.”

Turn­ing to the New START nu­clear arms re­duc­tion treaty with the U.S. that ex­pires in 2021, Putin said that Rus­sia is ready to ex­tend it “even to­mor­row,” warn­ing that the demise of the last U.S.-Rus­sian arms con­trol deal will re­move the fi­nal bar­rier stem­ming an arms race.

Putin spoke on a va­ri­ety of is­sues dur­ing the news con­fer­ence that lasted for more than four hours and was dom­i­nated by lo­cal is­sues, such as Rus­sia’s ail­ing health care sys­tem and fed­eral sub­si­dies for the re­gions.

Putin, 67, opened the news con­fer­ence by warn­ing about chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change, say­ing that global warm­ing could threaten Rus­sian Arc­tic cities and towns built on per­mafrost and trig­ger more fires and floods.

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