Kremlin confirms Donald Trump lawyer e-mailed Kremlin during campaign

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, in Moscow, on June 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Wednesday (Aug 30) confirmed that the Kremlin last year received an e-mail from a lawyer working for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump about building a Trump Tower skyscraper in Moscow.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that the Trump Organisation's chief counsel at the time, Michael Cohen, sent a message to a publicly available Kremlin press-service e-mail address asking for support for a never-realised project to build a Trump Tower in the Moscow City business district.

"I confirm that among the general mass of e-mails, also came such an e-mail from Mr Michael Cohen. That really happened," Peskov said.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Cohen e-mailed Peskov in January 2016, citing documents submitted to Congress, calling it "the most direct outreach documented by a top Trump aide to a similarly senior member of Putin's government."

Trump announced his campaign bid in June 2015.

Peskov said that he read the e-mail, which was addressed to him personally, but took no further action and did not show it to Putin: "This request said some Russian company together with certain people was pursuing the aim to create such a skyscraper in Moscow City, but their business was going nowhere and they asked for help with some recommendation or with promotion of this business.

"Since we do not react to such business topics - this is not our job - we left this without response," he said.

"There were no repeat messages."

The message was not passed to Putin, since "we can't discuss with President Putin the hundreds and thousands of various appeals that come from all different countries," Peskov said.

"I noticed it, but we didn't pay any attention to it because it's not part of our duties."

The Washington Post report said a Russian-born real estate developer, Felix Sater, encouraged Cohen to write the e-mail to promote the project. The New York Times reported Sater told Cohen he had lined up financing from VTB Bank, a Russian bank that is under US sanctions.

VTB said in a statement sent to AFP on Tuesday that "VTB never held any negotiations about financing the Trump tower in Moscow."

During his successful presidential campaign, Trump praised Putin as a strong leader and called for a reset in relations with Moscow, but ties have since deteriorated sharply, with the US imposing fresh sanctions on Russia and Moscow responding by ordering the US embassy to cut its staff to 455 by Friday.

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