Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in an interview broadcast Sunday said Moscow’s former ambassador was not trying to spy or recruit in his contacts with Americans during the 2016 presidential election.
During an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Ryabkov said Ambassador Sergey Kislyak would not be properly performing his duties if he did not speak with Americans.
“If Ambassador Kislyak was not contacting some people on the other side so to say, he wouldn’t perform his functions as he should,” Ryabkov said.
“He was not spying and he was not recruiting. If he did so, I would be now a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, if you know what it means,” he joked.
Ryabkov’s comments come as the special counsel continues its probe into Russia’s election meddling and any potential ties between President Trump’s campaign staff members and the Kremlin.
Several officials affiliated with Trump’s presidential campaign, including Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsRussian official: Kislyak was not recruiting How far does congressional investigative power go? GOP Senate candidates race to align with Trump MORE and senior adviser Jared Kushner, have come under scrutiny for contacts with Kislyak that were not originally reported on security clearance forms.
When asked during the interview if Russia had been providing damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonRussian official: Kislyak was not recruiting Kelly starts new White House gig Monday amid high hopes from Republicans Podesta: New White House chief of staff needs to protect Mueller from Trump MORE to the Trump campaign, Ryabkov deflected and said Russia was not doing anything to interfere in another country’s “internal affairs.”
“All the information which we provide to anyone can be easily found in open sources. We are not doing anything to the detriment of the domestic developments or internal affairs of any country, the U.S. included,” he said.
“The very fact that someone saw some Russian, a Russian somewhere, is not close to a criminal act, I think it’s ridiculous, it’s degrading for such a great country as the United States,” he continued.
Ryabkov was referring to a meeting between Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRussian official: Kislyak was not recruiting Kelly starts new White House gig Monday amid high hopes from Republicans OPINION | What FDR could have told Trump about ObamaCare MORE Jr. and a Russian lawyer who told the younger Trump that she had harmful information about Clinton prior to the meeting.