Russia says it had direct contacts in Trump campaign throughout election

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MOSCOW, Nov 10 (Reuters) - The Russian government was in touch with members of President-elect Donald Trump's political team during the U.S. election campaign and knows most of his entourage, one of Russia's most senior diplomats told the Interfax news agency on Thursday.

Accused by defeated Democratic contender Hillary Clinton of being a puppet of President Vladimir Putin after praising the Russian leader, Trump has dismissed suggestions he had anything to do with the Russian government during the campaign.

But in comments that could prove politically awkward for the president-elect, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there had indeed been some communications.

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The election night ballroom for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is shown in a Hilton Hotel, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Last minute preparations are being made for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trumps' election night party at Hilton Midtown hotel in Manhattan on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Today Americans will head to the polls and vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Workers prepare the room for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his election night party at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Voters head to the polls to decide the next President of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: 'The All-Seeing Trump,' a parody of a fortune-telling machine is seen near where the election night party for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will be held at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Voters head to the polls to decide the next President of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Preperations take place before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds his election night event at The New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Signs in support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump read 'Hispanics for Trump' at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Preperations take place before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds his election night event at The New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: A cake resembling Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is displayed at his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
An attendee holds a sign reading 'The Silent Majority Stands With Trump' during an election night party for 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Trump's treatment of women, while Democrat Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A television screen displays continuing results during an election night party for 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Trump's treatment of women, while Democrat Hillary Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: People cheer at Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpÂs election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: People cheer as voting results for Florida come in at Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpÂs election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: An attendee holds up a sign in support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that reads 'Hispanics For Trump' during the election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Attendees check their phones during Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Guests attend the election night event for Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump at The New York Hilton Midtown on November 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/WireImage)
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"There were contacts," Interfax cited Ryabkov as saying. "We are doing this and have been doing this during the election campaign."

Such contacts would continue, he added, saying the Russian government knew and had been in touch with many of Trump's closest allies. He did not name names.

"Obviously, we know most of the people from his (Trump's)entourage. Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions," he said.

"I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives."

Moscow was just beginning to consider how to go about setting up more formal channels to communicate with the future Trump administration, said Ryabkov.

A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FBI INQUIRY

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a preliminary inquiry in recent months into allegations that Trump or his associates might have had questionable dealings with Russian people or businesses, but found no evidence to warrant opening a full investigation, according to sources familiar with the matter. The agency has not publicly discussed the probe.

The U.S. government has blamed Russia for cyber attacks on Democratic Party organizations.

Trump, who has spoken of his desire to improve tattered U.S.-Russia ties, has said he might meet Putin before his inauguration, but Putin's spokesman has said there are currently no plans for such a meeting.

Interfax reported on Wednesday that Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, would be in New York this week for a chess tournament, a few blocks from Trump Tower, where the president-elect has his office.

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Donald Trump supporters cheer as U.S. presidential election results are announced during a Republican watch party in Phoenix, Arizona, November 8, 2016.

(REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec)

Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Republican presidential elect Donald Trump (L) arrives to speak during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 9, 2016. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump, shakes hands with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence during his election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway greet supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar/TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer as they watch election returns during an election night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in New York.

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. look on as Republican presidential elect Donald Trump speaks during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 9, 2016.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

US President-elect Donald Trump arrives at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. Trump stunned America and the world Wednesday, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump greets supporters at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Vice president-elect Mike Pence speaks to supporters at Republican president-elect Donald Trump's election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican president-elect Donald Trump walks on stage with his son Barron Trump, wife Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A supporter celebrates as returns come in for Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump during an election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Reince Priebus hugs Republican presidential elect Donald Trump during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 9, 2016.

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Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani arrives on stage with his wife Judith Nathan as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump addressed supporters at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

US President-elect Donald Trump greets son Eric after speaking at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. Trump stunned America and the world Wednesday, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Vice president-elect Mike Pence walks on stage with his wife Karen Pence at Republican president-elect Donald Trump election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Americans went to the polls yesterday to choose between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States.

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US President-elect Donald Trump arrives with his son Baron and wife Melania at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 8, 2016. Trump stunned America and the world Wednesday, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, speaks an election night party at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in a repudiation of the political establishment that jolted financial markets and likely will reorder the nation's priorities and fundamentally alter America's relationship with the world.

(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump look on as Republican presidential elect Donald Trump speaks during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 9, 2016.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak during an election night party at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Trump racked up victory after victory in key states Tuesday to put himself in position to threaten Hillary Clinton for the White House, with the results in three Rust-Belt states likely to determine the next U.S. president.

(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Attendees cheer during an election night party for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in a repudiation of the political establishment that jolted financial markets and likely will reorder the nation's priorities and fundamentally alter America's relationship with the world.

(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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But it cited Peskov as saying he did not plan to pass any message to Trump from Putin.

The Russian parliament erupted in applause on Wednesday when it heard that Trump had been elected and Putin told foreign ambassadors he was ready to fully restore ties with Washington.

Ryabkov was more circumspect though, saying the Russian Foreign Ministry felt no euphoria about the Republican's win despite wanting to normalize relations with Washington.

Moscow and Washington are at odds over Syria, Ukraine and NATO.

Ryabkov said Trump's allies had made some tough statements about Russia during the campaign and that his ministry was therefore not harboring any "rose-tinted" hopes.

"We are not expecting anything in particular from the new U.S. administration," Interfax cited Ryabkov as saying.

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