Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismisses FBI election meddling probe as 'blather'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismisses FBI election meddling probe as 'blather'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismisses FBI election meddling probe as 'blather'

Updated 18 February 2018, 11:45 AEDT

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says reports about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election are "just blather", as the US National Security Adviser says the evidence of interference is beyond dispute.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described reports about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election as "blather".

Key points:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells a Munich security conference reports on meddling are "just blather"
  • US President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser, HR McMaster, says evidence is "now really incontrovertible"
  • Mr Trump has maintained the indictment proves his campaign was in the clear

Mr Lavrov's comments come just one day after the US Justice Department indicted three Russian companies and 13 individuals, accusing them of conspiring to interfere with "US political and electoral processes".

The Foreign Minister declined to comment on the new charges, telling the Munich Security Conference on Saturday (local time) that US Vice-President Mike Pence and others had raised questions about the investigation.

"You may publish anything you want to. So until we see the facts, everything else is just blather," Mr Lavrov said.

Russia's former ambassador to the United States has also dismissed the allegations as "fantasies" rooted in domestic politics.

"I'm not sure that I can trust American law enforcement to be the most precise and truthful source of information about what Russians do," former ambassador Sergei Kislyak said.

"I have never done anything of this sort. None in my embassy did. So whatever allegations are being mounted against us are simply fantasies that are being used for political reasons inside the United States in the fight between different sides of the political divide."

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Mr Kislyak before Mr Trump's inauguration.

The charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller are seen as a major development in the ongoing collusion probe.

But the indictment remains silent on the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin, which Mr Mueller is investigating.

Mr Trump, who has previously denounced Mr Mueller's probe as a "witch hunt", said the indictment proved his campaign was in the clear.

"Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President," he wrote on Twitter.

"The results of the election were not impacted."

At the same conference in Munich, Mr Trump's National Security Adviser HR McMaster said the evidence of Russian meddling is now beyond dispute.

"As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible and available in the public domain," General McMaster said in response to a question from a Russian delegate.

Echoes of intelligence report

The surprise 37-page indictment could alter the divisive US domestic debate over Russia's meddling, undercutting some Republicans who, along with US President Donald Trump, have attacked Mr Mueller's investigation.

"These Russians engaged in a sinister and systematic attack on our political system. It was a conspiracy to subvert the process, and take aim at democracy itself," said Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The indictment described a conspiracy to disrupt the US election by people who adopted false online personas to push divisive messages, travelled to the US to collect intelligence, and staged political rallies while posing as Americans.

One of the companies, the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, "had a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election", the indictment said.

In one case, it said, the Russians paid an unidentified person to build a cage aboard a flatbed truck and another to wear a costume "portraying [Hillary] Clinton in a prison uniform."

The indictment broadly echoed the conclusions of a January 2017 US intelligence community assessment, which found Russia had meddled in the election, and that its goals eventually included aiding Mr Trump, the Republican candidate who went on to a surprise victory over Democratic Party candidate Ms Clinton in November 2016.

The accused Russians are unlikely to be arrested or appear in a US court on the charges, which include conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud, bank fraud and identity theft, as there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Russia.