Putin says U.S. courts are being used against Trump

Russian President Putin attends press conference in Tashkent

By Samia Nakhoul and Guy Faulconbridge

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia did not care who the next U.S. president was, as this would probably not change anything for Moscow, but he said the U.S. court system was clearly being used in a political battle against Donald Trump.

Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which he casts as a defensive move against an expanding U.S.-led NATO, has seen ties between Moscow and Washington fall to their lowest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Speaking to foreign media editors at an economic forum in St Petersburg, Putin accused the Biden administration, the biggest single supplier of military equipment to Ukraine, of making mistake after mistake, something he alleged was "burning" the U.S. political system and global leadership.

"Basically, we don't care (who wins)", Putin said when asked by Reuters whether he believed the outcome of the U.S. election would make a difference for Moscow.

"For us, we do not think the end result holds much significance. We will work with any president the American people elect."

Calling incumbent Joe Biden a predictable old school politician, he said Moscow would not meddle in domestic U.S. politics, something it has been repeatedly accused of in the past by U.S. intelligence services.

Trump's previous presidency had damaged U.S.-Russia relations, he said, and it was hard to say whether it would be any different this time round if he won the November vote.

"We have never had any special ties with Mr Trump, but the fact remains that as president he started imposing massive sanctions on Russia, he withdrew from the treaty on intermediate and shorter-range missiles," said Putin.

"To say - I am speaking quite sincerely - that we believe that after the elections something will change towards Russia in American policy, I would not say so. We don't think so. We think that nothing really serious will happen."

Putin did not however rule out a policy shift if, as he put it, Washington began looking to its own national interests.

"No one in the United States is interested in Ukraine, they are interested in the greatness of the United States, which is fighting not for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, but for its own greatness."

"But if the future administration will change its goal-setting vector, and will see the meaning of its existence, its work in strengthening the United States from within, strengthening the economy, finances, building good relations in the world...then something may change."

The Russian leader said it was clear however that the U.S. judicial system had been harnessed by Trump's political rivals to try to damage his electoral chances, a strategy Putin said did not appear to be working.

"They are burning themselves from the inside, their state, their political system ... It is obvious all over the world that the prosecution of Trump, especially in court on charges that were formed on the basis of events that happened years ago, without direct proof, is simply using the judicial system in an internal political struggle," said Putin.

(Reporting by Reuters Writing by Andrew OsbornEditing by Mark Trevelyan)