Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told reporters he’s had no contact with anyone in the Trump administration or campaign over the last year.
“We haven’t had any contacts,” Novak said in response to a question by a reporter at CERAWeek in Houston, according to Axios.
The reporter also asked if Novak had ever discussed sanctions with President Donald Trump’s representatives. Novak wouldn’t directly answer the question, but did say sanctions on Russia were counterproductive.
“We have a lot of unused potential in the area of synergy and cooperation in energy,” Novak said.
Novak’s relationship with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson goes back to at least 2014, when Tillerson headed ExxonMobil. Exxon was beefing up its operations in Russia when the Obama administration imposed sanctions on the country after it annexed Crimea and supported Ukrainian rebels.
Novak told CNBC in January he was pleased to see Trump make energy a top priority of his administration. Though Trump’s emphasis has been on promoting American energy resources, and exporting them abroad. Russia is already being hampered by low oil prices.
The Trump campaign has come under fire from the media and Congress for alleged ties to Russia. U.S. intelligence officials issued a report
Novak’s remarks come after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Sessions told lawmakers during his Senate confirmation hearing he had no contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, but subsequent news reports indicated he’d actually met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in September.
White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned in February for talking about Russian sanctions in a phone conversation with Kislyak then telling Vice President Mike Pence he did not.
Two Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Carter Page, resigned amid allegations they were working with Russia, according to NPR.
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