The Kremlin has rejected as "fake news" reports that Donald Trump's campaign team spoke frequently with high-ranking Russian intelligence agents over the course of last year.
Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a New York Times report quoting former and current US officials contained only "anonymous information" and that "it's very hard to differentiate real from fake" news. Sources in the report were laughable, he added.
"This is absolutely a newspaper report that isn't based on any facts and that doesn't point to any concrete facts," Peskov said.
Conventional communications between Trump advisors and Russian officials were ongoing, Peskov said, adding that US diplomats travel around Russia and speak with Russian officials all the time. "This all has a place, it's normal diplomatic practice," he said.
Russia's SVR foreign intelligence agency also said the reports were baseless. "The press bureau doesn't comment on such unsubstantiated statements in the media," SVR press bureau head Sergei Ivanov told the Interfax news agency.
Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said the NYT report was a continuation of attacks on Trump by "mainstream media".
"These media take advantage of any possibility to defame the new president and often use for these goals the Russian dossier, which is worn but effectively influences readers," he said.
Senator Alexei Pushkov claimed the "Russian card" was being played against Trump and said the NYT report contained "zero facts, only suggestions, total fog".
"This isn't information but an info directional mine. The goal is to blow up the Trump administration," he wroteon Twitter.
Russian media continued their attackson the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Trump's national security advisor Michael Flynn, who misled the US vice-president, Mike Pence, about phone calls with the Russian ambassador.
Flynn's departure followed a flow of intelligence leaks - repeatedly denied by the Kremlin - that he had secretly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington.
"Opponents of the US president are using Flynn's resignation for a new wave of hysteria against Russia," a Rossiiskaya Gazeta story said.
A columnist in Moskovsky Komsomolets argued the resignation sent the message that "attempts to restore relations with the Russians are an undertaking lethally dangerous for your career" and that the fuse for any Washington scandal is now the phrase "links with Russia".
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it would start a new section of its website to expose "fake news" by foreign media.
Responding to another New York Times report that Russia had violated the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty with the US by deploying a new nuclear-capable cruise missile, Peskov said "no one has officially accused Russia of violating" the treaty and that Russia "remains committed to its international obligations".(Source: The Guardian)