A leading Russian diplomat acknowledged on Thursday that Moscow had maintained widespread contact with the campaign of Donald Trump before his election as United States president.
- By tainting electoral process, Putin already won the U.S. election
- Putin says Russia ready to restore full ties with the U.S. under President Trump
- Impossible to second-guess Trump on Israel, Russia and Iran
In October, the U.S. government formally accused Russia of attempting to subvert the election by means of cyberattacks against Democratic Party servers. Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the charge as hysteria and a ploy to distract voters from the failings of the candidates.
"There were contacts" with influential people close to Trump, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency on Thursday. "I don't say that all of them, but a whole array of them, supported contacts with Russian representatives."
The report did not give further details.
Another influential Russian, pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov, also denied allegations of Russian interference in the election, but said “maybe we helped a bit with WikiLeaks,” the Guardian reported.
A series of leaks by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks during the course of the campaign proved to be very damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration accused Russia of being behind the leaks.
Trump's relations with Russia were one of the most contentious issues of the campaign, especially in light of his favorable remarks about Putin as a strong leader and the Democratic claims of cyberattacks.
The Clinton campaign also called on the FBI to disclose what it knew about contacts between Trump and Russia, following a report in Slate online magazine of thousands of apparent connection attempts between a mail server operated on behalf of the Trump Organization and computers inside a Russian company, Alfa Bank in Moscow.
The Trump campaign responded that the computer in question had been dormant for years.
Putin was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump on his victory on Wednesday. Russia, he said, was ready to fully restore relations with the United States, following a period a tension over Russian military operations in Syria.