By Laura Mills, James Marson and Nathan Hodge

MOSCOW--Brushing off accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the Obama administration and the Democratic Party were attempting to blame their electoral failure on "external factors."

"The Democratic Party lost not only the presidential elections, but elections in the Senate and Congress....Is that also my work?" Mr. Putin said at his annual press conference.

U.S. security officials have said Russian officials were behind the hacking and leaking of emails from the Democratic National Committee that supporters of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have blamed for damagingher candidacy.

Mr. Putin said that the question of who carried out that hack was less important than that they revealed that public opinion was being manipulated.

He accused Democrats of losing sight of the needs of average people and said the current presidential administration "is dividing the nation."

Mr. Putin said that he hoped to have a constructive relationship with President-elect Donald Trump: "Nobody believed he would win except for us," he said.

As is typical for his televised end-of-year press conference, the president addressed questions on topics as divergent as pensions, nuclear weapons and funding for construction of agricultural machinery.

Mr. Putin said that Russia is upgrading its armed forces, including nuclear weapons, but doesn't want an arms race. "We will never get dragged into an arms race where we spend resources that we can't afford, " he said.

The president said he didn't contest the fact that the U.S. military is the world's strongest, but he added that Russia is stronger "than any potential aggressor."

On Russia's recession-plagued economy, Mr. Putin said it was recovering and would shrink by only 0.5% to 0.6% this year, up from a 3.7% contraction last year.

He said a broad range of sectors, from agriculture to industry, were showing signs of improvement. He said that inflation was likely to reach 5.5% this year, below previous government predictions, and that a target of 4% inflation was attainable next year.

Write to Laura Mills at Laura.Mills@wsj.com, James Marson at james.marson@wsj.com and Nathan Hodge at nathan.hodge@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 23, 2016 07:10 ET (12:10 GMT)

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