Russian Officials Were in Contact With Trump Campaign, Diplomat Says


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Donald J. Trump at a campaign event on Monday. A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Wednesday that there were no plans to meet with Mr. Trump in the near future.

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Damon Winter/The New York Times

MOSCOW — The Russian government had contact with advisers to Donald J. Trump during the American presidential campaign, one of Russia’s top diplomats said Thursday.

“There were contacts,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign,” he said.

Mr. Ryabkov said officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry were familiar with many people in Mr. Trump’s entourage. “I cannot say that all, but a wide range of them were in touch with Russian representatives,” Mr. Ryabkov said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump said she was not aware of any contacts with the Russian government until after his victory. “We are not aware of any campaign representatives that were in touch with any foreign entities before yesterday, when Mr. Trump spoke with many world leaders,” the spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said. “Those discussions were congratulatory and forward looking.”

It was unclear why the Russian government made the information public on Thursday. A senior government official in Moscow said that the contacts with the Trump campaign had been routine and that they had been carried out through the Russian ambassador in Washington. The meetings with campaign staff members were similar to those the ambassador has with members of Congress to clarify their statements about Russia, the official said.

It is not uncommon for the presidential nominees of major parties to have contact with foreign leaders, or to meet with heads of foreign governments. During the campaign, Mr. Trump traveled to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton met separately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in September.

But those countries, close American allies, were not accused of trying to interfere with the election.

After embarrassing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and other institutions and prominent individuals were released by WikiLeaks, the Obama administration said in October that Russia had ordered the hacking — an assertion the Russians denied.

Beyond that, the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August to investigate whether Russia might be trying to manipulate the vote.

Law enforcement officials said that their investigations into the hacking of the Democrats’ computers, into any financial connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russian financial institutions, and into possible secret emails from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank found no conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.

On Thursday, Mr. Rybakov sought to play down the perception that Moscow was thrilled by Mr. Trump’s victory — though members of the state Duma, or Parliament, did burst into applause at the news.

“We feel no euphoria,” Mr. Rybakov was quoted as saying.

He said: “There is diverse experience in dealing with U.S. administrations, representing both Republican and Democratic periods. There were periods when we started on a good note, but then rolled down to crisis. There were other periods in our complicated history.”

Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia were an issue in the bitter presidential campaign, during which he praised Mr. Putin. In October, Mr. Trump said that should he win, he would consider meeting with the Russian president ahead of the inauguration.

Mr. Putin made no secret of his preference for Mr. Trump, prompting Mrs. Clinton to accuse her rival of being Moscow’s “puppet.”

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