In his first public appearance since his return from Washington, Sergei Kislyak said his meeting with Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was part of his job description.
“Any diplomat, Russian or not, works to better understand the political situation of the place where he is stationed,” Kislyak said during the “Press Conference” program on Rossia-24 state television on Saturday.
Kislyak’s name has been at the center of spiralling allegations of collusion with the Russian authorities by people close to Trump. Flynn was forced to resign just one month after taking up his position as Trump’s first national security advisor on allegations that he had had been in contact with Kislyak around the U.S. election campaign to discuss the lifting of U.S. sanctions.
Kislyak’s name has also been connected to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
In the broadcast, Kislyak denied all claims of inappropriate dealings. “It was completely correct, and calm, absolutely transparent,” he said of his meeting with Flynn. “There were no secrets, not from our side in any case.”
He said the two men had discussed issues of mutual interest between the U.S. and Russia, including terrorism. But the lifting of U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict and the annexation of Crimea had not been on the agenda, he said.
“I was instructed [by Moscow] not to discuss the issue of sanctions.” Kislyak insisted. “We don’t discuss sanctions with anyone. And be certain that I fulfilled by instructions faithfully.”
Kislyak, who was Russian ambassador to Washington from 2008 until July 2017, also denied Russian involvement in last year's presidential elections, and said his country had been “fully prepared for either one [candidate] or the other.”
The Russian ambassador told Russian TV that he believes American antagonism towards Russia is a manifestation of the country losing its superpower status.
“I was amazed to hear CNN commentators talk about ethnic Russians in the U.S. as a category to be investigated,” he said. “When people go to those lengths, it means the country is psychologically ill.”