MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin insisted on Monday that conversations between President Donald Trump's former national security adviser and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. didn't influence Russian President Vladimir Putin's response to sanctions imposed by Trump's predecessor.
Former adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about reaching out to Russian officials.
Prosecutors say Flynn asked Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak last December to "not escalate the situation" after the outgoing Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for suspected election interference. Just days later, Putin opted not to retaliate.
Flynn's tenure was short-lived. He was forced to resign in February following news reports revealing that the Obama administration officials had informed Trump's team that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak, a fact at odds with the public assertions of Vice President Mike Pence.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday it was "absurd" to suggest that the phone conversation could have influenced Putin's decision and added that "such requests couldn't have been passed on" to him.
"The president makes his own decisions, guided solely by Russia's national interests," Peskov told reporters. "Flynn couldn't have asked Sergei Ivanovich (Kislyak) about anything, and, what's more such requests couldn't have been passed on to the Russian president."
Russian officials have dismissed special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump administration and Moscow as an anti-Russia witch hunt.
Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Federation Council's information policy committee, tweeted Monday that "Mueller has nothing on Flynn."
"Witch-hunters are going away empty-handed," he said.