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Bernie Sanders tells Vladimir Putin 'stay out of American elections'
21 February 2020, 22:46 | Updated: 21 February 2020, 23:47
Bernie Sanders has told Russian President Vladimir Putin to "stay out of American elections".
His comments come in light of a Washington Post report that says the Democrat presidential candidate that Russia was trying to help his campaign.
In a statement, Mr Sanders said: “Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend.
"He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia."
He continued: “Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election.
“Some of the ugly stuff on the internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters,” Sanders said.
In a video posted shortly after the announcement, Sanders said: "I don't care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president.
"My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do."
Federal investigators in 2018 charged 13 Russians over a covert social media campaign that prosecutors said was aimed at dividing public opinion on hot-button social issues as well as propping up Mr Sanders and Republican candidate Mr Trump while also denigrating Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic nominee.
Organisers of that Russian effort circulated an outline of themes for future social media content, with instructions to "use any opportunity to criticise Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump - we support them)," according to the indictment.
Shortly before news of the Russians' interference in Sanders' campaign was released on Friday, Mr Trump told supporters in Las Vegas that he heard Democrats were trying to "start a rumour ... that Putin wants to make sure I get elected".
"Listen to this, so doesn't he want to see who the Democrat is going to be? Wouldn't he rather have, let's say Bernie?" Mr Trump asked.