Russia's former ambassador to the United States has defended his meetings with former US national security adviser Michael Flynn. They are being scrutinized in a probe into alleged Russian meddling in 2016 US elections.
Sergei Kislyak, whose term as ambassador ended last month, has publicly spoken about his meetings with Michael Flynn during a television panel discussion in Russia on Saturday. He said that the meetings with Flynn (above picture) during the 2016 presidential campaign of now-US President Donald Trump were focused on US-Russian cooperation.
"We only spoke about the most simple things...but the communication was completely correct, calm, absolutely transparent. In any case, there were no secrets on our side," Kislyak said during the discussion. "There are a number of issues which are important for cooperation between Russia and the United States - most of all, terrorism. And that was one of the things we discussed."
His claims come a day after news reports out of Washington revealed that the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller had recently requested documents from the White House.
The document request was not a formal subpoena, but nevertheless indicates that a criminal investigation into a possible collusion between Trump's campaign team and Moscow is gaining momentum.
The news came one day after reports revealed that Mueller, a former FBI director, has convened a grand jury to aid in his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Lying to the vice president
Flynn was forced out in early February, little more than three weeks after taking office, ostensibly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials, and in particular, Kislyak.
Ty Cobb, President Trump's lawyer for the ongoing Russia probe, said he would not discuss "specific communications" with Mueller's office but would "continue to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel."
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations that he or members of his staff colluded with Russia to shift the US election, saying he is the victim of a political "witch hunt" and "fake news."
But there are indications that Mueller's probe is spreading far beyond Russia's interference in the US election to include Trump's financial records, which are unrelated to Russia or the elections, as well as an examination of Flynn's financial dealings.
Trump has publicly warned Mueller that his financial dealings should be off-limits and investigating them would cross a red line.
Flynn also has been subpoenaed by a grand jury in Virginia, as well as by separate committees from the Senate and House of Representatives. Questions have been raised about lobbying work he did for Russia and Turkey and a paid appearance he made at an event for Russian broadcaster RT.
At one point Flynn had refused to cooperate with a congressional panel, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
bik/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)