Russians Increasingly Indifferent to Trump, US Turmoil - NBC Southern California
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Russians Increasingly Indifferent to Trump, US Turmoil

Opinion surveys have indicated that initial expectations of a thaw have given way to apathy, and perceptions of Trump have become more negative

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    In an exclusive interview with NBC's Lester Holt, President Donald Trump said that when he decided to fire former FBI director James Comey, he said to himself: "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won." Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, setting off a wave of backlash that has included Democratic calls for a special prosecutor in the investigation. (Published Thursday, May 11, 2017)

    While their country has become a daily source of headlines and political intrigue in the United States, most Russians are watching the drama over President Donald Trump's relationship with Moscow with resignation, even indifference.

    Russian media, state-owned and private, chronicle Trump's troubles matter-of-factly. Regular citizens generally care little about them. Many share the view that what's unfolded in Washington has dimmed prospects for the mended Russia-U.S. ties his candidacy represented here and thus have lost interest.

    "I live in Russia, and that's why I'm not so much interested in what's going on in the United States," musician Artem Burnat said. "Yes, the president is a controversial and unpredictable person. But this is their country and their president."

    Opinion surveys have indicated that initial expectations of a thaw have given way to apathy, and perceptions of Trump have become more negative. Although many Russians attribute his travails to Democrats' anger over losing the election, they don't see the billionaire businessman as someone to defend.

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    "The vote was split nearly in half, and he didn't even have the majority of votes," manager Andrei Tereshkovich, 56, said on the streets of Moscow. "There is a strong desire to change things, people are upset, and the situation is unstable. Trump lacks resources to put an end to that."

    The Justice Department's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Russia and the Republican campaign also was widely seen in Russia as part of relentless efforts by Trump's foes to weaken and sideline him. The reports this week that the president shared highly sensitive classified information with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the United States were viewed as more of the same.

    "Anyone with his kind of persona would draw attacks," poultry farmer Oleg Matveyenko said, referring to Trump's combative ways.

    Matveyenko, 54, said that he supported Russia's liberal pro-Western Yabloko party during the 1990s, but added that Western-style democracy had since lost its appeal.

    "Neither Europe, nor the United States can serve as an example for us," he said. "There is a crisis of democracy there, a systemic crisis."

    The Kremlin has staunchly denied meddling in the U.S. election. Russian state television and other media have offered detailed coverage of the U.S. political infighting and developments such as the ouster of FBI Director James Comey, maintaining a neutral tone.

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    Tereshkovich predicted that Trump won't face impeachment proceedings as long as Republicans have the majority in the U.S. Senate. Yet despite his sophisticated knowledge of American politics, he confesses to having only passing curiosity about the biggest political scandal in modern U.S. history.

    "I don't really care about the developments in the United States and the rest of the world," Tereshkovich said.

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    Iuliia Subbotovska in Moscow contributed to this report.