Former Russian ambassador to US rejects election meddling accusations
The former Russian ambassador to the United States has strongly denied the accusations of meddling in the US presidential election.
Sergei Kislyak, who has just returned from Washington, said on Russian state Rossiya 24 television he was merely doing his job as a diplomat when he met with members of President Donald Trump's team.
He said he had also met with representatives of Hillary Clinton's campaign, but did not give any names.
Mr Kislyak described the accusations against him as absurd and "shameful" for the US, adding the official acknowledgement his phone conversations were bugged was "unhealthy".
He said: "Any diplomat, Russian or not, works to better understand the policy of a country he's posted to, figure out what the new administration's course is and understand where cooperation is possible."
Mr Kislyak's contacts with members of Mr Trump's team have been part of congressional and FBI investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Moscow has denied any interference in the US election.
Asked about his contacts with Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Mr Trump's national security adviser before being fired in February, Mr Kislyak said they did not discuss any secrets.
He said: "We talked about very basic things. There are a few subjects important for Russia-US cooperation, primarily terrorism, and it was one of the subjects we talked about.
"Our conversations were legitimate, calm and absolutely transparent."
Mr Flynn was fired after officials said he misled US Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed Washington's sanctions against Russia in a phone call.
Mr Kislyak insisted they had not talked about sanctions, adding he had specific orders from Moscow not to chat about the restrictive measures.
"I had instructions not to discuss sanctions," he said. "We haven't been involved in any discussions or bargaining over sanctions, because we believe that they have been introduced unlawfully."