Former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak denied on Saturday that he discussed sanctions with former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
In an interview with Russian state television, Kislyak — who left his diplomatic position last month — says he was instructed by his bosses at the Kremlin not to discuss sanctions with members of the Trump team.
“I did not discuss sanctions with anyone, and rest assured that I carried out my instructions honestly,” Kislyak told Russian 24 news channel.
Kislyak’s phone conversations with Flynn last December ultimately led to the retired lieutenant general’s firing.
Kislyak and Flynn talked by phone multiple times in December, including on Dec. 29, the day that the Obama administration implemented a new round of sanctions against Russia for its cyberattacks against the U.S. during the presidential campaign.
The fact that Flynn and Kislyak spoke by phone was revealed by The Washington Post in January. The White House and Vice President Mike Pence initially denied that Flynn, a former director at the Defense Intelligence Agency, discussed sanctions with Kislyak. But reports came out that transcripts of Kislyak’s intercepted phone calls showed that sanctions were in fact discussed.
Flynn was interviewed by FBI agents about the calls on Jan. 24, several days after taking office. He reportedly initially denied discussing sanctions before acknowledging that the topic might have come up.
President Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13 for misleading Pence about the phone calls. The retired lieutenant general is now under investigation over his business dealings with foreign entities.
In his denial of the sanctions talk, Kislyak says that he and Flynn only “spoke about the most elementary things.”
“There are several issues that are important for Russian relations with the United States — first and foremost, terrorism. That was one of the topics we touched upon. On the whole, our interaction was absolutely proper, calm, and completely transparent. There have been no secrets [about it], certainly not on our part,” he said, according to Radio Free Europe.
In his interview, Kislyak also denied allegations that he worked as a spy for Russia or that — as the U.S. intelligence community has determined — the Kremlin directed a hacking campaign against Democrats during the campaign.
Kislyak, who in addition to interacting with Flynn last year also met with Jared Kushner and then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, said that he made several failed attempts to meet with members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I could give you a long list of people from Clinton’s campaign I wanted to pay a visit to, but they all walked away from [my attempts],” he said, according to Radio Free Europe.