Russian government officials were in contact with members of Donald Trump's campaign prior to Tuesday's election, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday.
"Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage," Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. "Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives."
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the claim, consistent with Trump's denial throughout the campaign that he had any contact with the Russian government.
A journalist points at a portrait of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin at right, at the Union Jack pub in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 9, 2016. The Trump campaign is denying it had contacts with Russian officials.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Bloomberg News that Russian Embassy staff met with members of Trump's campaign, which she called "normal practice." She said that Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign, however, had refused similar requests.
During the election campaign, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged compliments and expressed interest in improving relations.
On the thorny issues of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and Syria, Trump leaned to Moscow’s positions more than his own Republican Party.
Putin congratulated Trump on his election victory, news of which was met with applause in Russia's parliament Wednesday.