Flynn meeting in Moscow downplayed
WASHINGTON • During the interview with the American NBC television network on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also played down the appearance of former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn with him at a December 2015 gala dinner in Moscow.
A retired US Army lieutenant-general, former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, and briefly President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Mr Flynn was paid US$45,000 (S$62,000) to speak at the anniversary gala for television network Russia Today (RT).
He is among those close to the Trump campaign now being investigated for ties to Russia.
"When I came to the event for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me, there was a gentleman sitting on one side," Mr Putin said.
"I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards, I was told, 'You know, there was an American gentleman. He was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services.'
"That's it. I didn't even really talk to him... That's the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn."
Secret Russian line to Trump team denied
MOSCOW • Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is unaware of any proposal from Mr Jared Kushner, Mr Donald Trump's son-in-law, to set up a secret line of communications between the incoming administration and the Russian government, and that it is "nonsense" to say Russia has collected compromising material about Mr Trump.
"No such proposal ever reached me," Mr Putin told NBC's Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly.
A secret line with Russia could have allowed the Trump transition team and Russian officials to communicate outside of the scrutiny of the departing Obama administration. Mr Putin said his country had no channels of communication with the campaigns of either Mr Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but that there may have been official contacts he called "standard diplomatic practice".
Mr Trump, who praised Mr Putin repeatedly during last year's presidential campaign, is facing multiple probes into the extent of any links to Russia, and whether his campaign played any role in Russia interfering with the election.
President Trump has called the Russia inquiry a "witch hunt" and the talk of a collusion "a total hoax", although he also has hedged his denials when it comes to those around him.
Mr Putin said he had never met Mr Trump, including during a visit by the property mogul to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.
Mr Putin said he is not aware of any meetings between Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak and officials from the Trump campaign, and that he does not talk to his country's ambassadors daily.
He called the allegations "domestic political squabbles" and a line of attack against Mr Trump.
"This is just some kind of nonsense," Mr Putin said in response to a question about Mr Kislyak meeting Trump campaign officials.
"Because if there had been something meaningful, he would have made a report to the minister, and the minister would have made a report to me."
Mr Putin also said it was "nuts" to suggest the Trump administration had moved to ease economic sanctions on Russia. Asked whether all 17 US intelligence agencies that concluded Russia interfered with the election are lying, he said: "They have been misled."
"What fingerprints or hoof- prints or horn-prints, what are you talking about?" he said.