MOSCOW, December 4. /TASS/. Phone conversations between ex-US Presidential National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s former Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak had no influence whatsoever on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decisions on whether to respond to the sanctions imposed by the then outgoing Obama administration, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Monday.
"The decision [not to respond to new sanctions at that moment] was made by Putin. It was his own decision and it could not have been tied to any requests or recommendations in any way," Peskov explained, when asked if Russia’s decision to refrain from retaliating against the December 2016 sanctions was based on information Kislyak had received from Flynn.
"Whatever information Putin receives from his ambassadors does not concern anyone else. The president makes decisions entirely on his own. He is guided exclusively by Russia’s national interests, as he has said himself more than once," Peskov stressed, adding that Flynn was not in any position to ask Kislyak for anything. Moreover, there was no chance such requests might be conveyed the Russian president.
"That’s totally absurd," he said.
On Friday, Flynn pleaded guilty that he had given false testimony to the FBI. According to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s charges, the former presidential adviser lied to the Bureau when questioned about a conversation that he had with Russia’s then US envoy, Sergey Kislyak, at the end of 2016. Flynn said he did not ask the Russian authorities to avoid taking any measures in retaliation for US sanctions. In addition, he said he did not remember if Kislyak had replied that Russia agreed to avoid taking immediate retaliatory steps.
The administration of then President Barack Obama on December 29, 2016 imposed a package of sanctions over allegations that Russia had meddled in the US election and mounted cyberattacks against American political institutions. The restrictions were applied to Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB and the Main Directorate of Russia’s General Staff (formerly, the Main Intelligence Directorate, the GRU). Additionally, the United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats.
Flynn took office as Trump’s national security adviser in January 2017. Soon after, on February 13, according to the White House’s official explanation, he was forced to resign for failing to properly inform US Vice-President Michael Pence about his contacts with Kislyak.
Moscow has at the highest level repeatedly dismissed the charges Russia tried to meddle in America’s presidential elections. On October 27, 2016, President Putin, while speaking at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, said all speculations about Russian interference in the US presidential election were a "myth and a conjured-up problem" in addition to being nothing but "hysteria."