MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin waves as he leaves after his annual press conference in Moscow yesterday. — AFP

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday appeared to cozy up to US President-elect Donald Trump while stamping his authority as the key powerbroker in Syria. At his annual endof- year press conference, the confident Kremlin strongman praised Trump for tapping into the public mood in the US to claim his surprise win in the elections.

Putin praised Trump, saying he had his finger on the pulse of US society, and launched a scathing attack on the Democrats, saying they had forgotten the meaning of their own name and were sore losers. Speaking at his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia’s president said that only Russia had believed that Trump would become the next president of the United States, but that did not mean the Democrats had the right to blame him for their defeat.

“The current administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party are trying to blame all their failures on external factors,” Putin told reporters. “(We are talking about) a party which has clearly forgotten the original meaning of its own name,” Putin said, accusing the Democrats of “shamelessly” abusing their status as the ruling party to try to influence public opinion.

“Outstanding figures in American history from the ranks of the Democratic Party would likely be turning in their graves. Roosevelt certainly would be,” he said. “He went to the end, though nobody believed that he would win except us,” Putin said. Ties between Moscow and Washington have hit their lowest point since the Cold War under President Barack Obama due to the Ukraine crisis and Russia’s military intervention in Syria. But the election of Trump, who praised Putin as a strong leader, has provided a surprise fillip for the Kremlin, with the Russian economy still struggling due to Western sanctions and lower oil prices.

Officials in the US have accused Russia of cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the US vote, with some alleging Moscow sought to tip the balance in favor of Trump. Putin, however, backed Trump’s rejection of the allegations, insisting “as the president-elect said entirely correctly, who knows who these hackers were?” The Russian leader also sought to play down a potential nuclear stand-off with the future US president, a day after they both pledged to bolster their nuclear capabilities.

Putin insisted there was “nothing unusual” about Trump’s call in a tweet Thursday to bolster America’s nuclear capability, hours after he ordered his top brass to strengthen Moscow’s “nuclear potential”. “We will never look to be dragged into an armed race and to spend resources that we can’t afford,” Putin said, after insisting he understood the US was the stronger military power but “we just say that we are stronger than any aggressor”. — Agencies