Russia has denied Vladimir Putin was influenced by Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn when he decided against retaliating to US sanctions.
A spokesman for the Kremlin said Mr Putin decided “independently” to refrain from responding to the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last December for alleged meddling in the US election.
Flynn, who pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, had allegedly asked Russia’s then-ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, to hold off from responding to the sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama.
At the time, Mr Putin said he would wait to see how relations developed with the Trump administration and only went ahead with sanctions against the US this summer.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “absurd” to suggest Flynn had any influence on the decision and Mr Putin was unaware of the alleged request.
“Of course Putin took the decision, it was his decision,” Mr Peskov told reporters.
“(The decision) could not have been connected to any requests or recommendations. The president takes his decisions absolutely independently.”
As part of his plea agreement, Flynn – a retired US Army lieutenant general – has agreed to co-operate with the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian meddling.
Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, has been named in US media as the “very senior” member of the President’s transition team who directed Flynn to reach out to Russia.
The US president told reporters on Saturday he was not worried about what Flynn may tell prosecutors, adding there was “absolutely no collusion” between his campaign team and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.