Traditional Russian wooden nesting dolls Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump

The Kremlin’s spokesman sought to dismiss controversy over links between Russia and Donald Trump’s administration by claiming Hillary Clinton’s team had also “probably” met with the Russian ambassador during the election campaign.

Dmitry Peskov declined to name any individuals in an interview with CNN in which he said America was “self-humiliating” in insisting that Russia had intervened to help Donald Trump get elected.

Clinton’s team is yet to comment on the allegations, but earlier this month Foreign Policy reported that no one from her campaign met with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, or any other Russian official. The magazine also reported that the other candidates kept the embassy “at arm’s length.”

In this Sept. 6, 2013 file photo, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, speaks with reporters

The house intelligence committee will hold its first session on Russia a week today, with the heads of the FBI, National Security Agency and CIA expected to appear, plus previous intelligence chiefs. Peskov defended the actions of Kislyak, whose meeting with Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice of national security adviser, caused Flynn to lose his job.

He was fired after just 24 days when it became clear that he had lied about meeting the Russian, and misled the vice president.
“This is his job,” said Peskov, speaking on CNN’s Sunday morning politics show. “He was talking about bilateral relations, about what is going on in the United States, so we have a better understanding in Moscow.

“This is what happens all around the world.”

Referring to meetings between members of Clinton’s team and Kislyak, he said: “If you look at some people connected with Hillary Clinton during her campaign, you would probably see that he had lots of meetings of that kind.”

Trump’s administration has been dogged by a steady drip of reports about shadowy-seeming ties to Russia, which have infuriated the president and energized his opponents.

Peskov said Moscow was upset about the cloud of suspicion. “The fact that Russia is being demonized in that sense comes very strange to us,” he said. “And we are really sorry about that. Because the whole issue takes us away from getting the situation to a better position. Quite unexpectedly, we were in the position where Russia became, shall we say, a nightmare for the United States.

“You are self-humiliating yourself to say that a country can intervene.

“America, a huge country – the most powerful country in the world, with very, very stable political traditions, and you say that a country can easily intervene and easily influence your electoral process? This is simply impossible.”

Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via Associated Press Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017

Asked about whether he expected Trump to lift sanctions, Peskov said that President Vladimir Putin would not raise the issue first.

There is no date yet for a meeting, but the two leaders will both be at the G20 Summit in Hamburg in July.

Putin, he said, was pleased that Trump defeated Clinton. “The candidate Hillary Clinton was quite negative – declaring Russia the main evil, the main threat,” he said.

“Whom would you like better – the one that says Russia is evil? Or the one that says yes we disagree, but let’s find points of agreement.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, greets supporters after voting in Chappaqua, N.Y., Nov. 8, 2016

He said his initial contact with Trump was “quite promising”, but that Russia was increasingly disappointed with the Trump administration.

“We don’t have a proper understanding of the future,” he said. “We certainly would expect our contacts to be more frequent, more in depth, because we had quite a significant pause.

“We were losing potential by blaming everything on earth on each other.”

“We do worry. We want to see this hysteria coming to its logical end. Better sooner than later.

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