Russian President Vladimir Putin has stressed that he hardly spoke to former US national security adviser Michael Flynn during a Moscow event in 2015.
“I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman, he was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services’,” said Putin during an interview with Megyn Kelly broadcasted by NBC News on Sunday.
“That’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him. That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn,” he added. “You and I, you and I personally, have a much closer relationship than I had with Mr. Flynn… You and I met yesterday evening. You and I have been working together all day today. And now we’re meeting again,” he told Kelly.
Flynn’s relations with Russia are currently under investigation by the US amid claims of possible Moscow interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The former security advisor has also refrained from testifying before a US Senate Intelligence Committee about his Moscow ties, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Flynn was forced to resign in February from his position as US President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in late December.
The conversation, which took place before Trump’s inauguration, centered around lifting then-President Barack Obama’s sanctions against Russia. Any discussion of sanctions at that time would have amounted to a breach of US law barring private citizens from engaging in foreign policy.
Flynn’s tenure of just 24 days as national security advisor is the shortest in the history for the position.
He is also under a formal investigation by the Pentagon for his undisclosed paid speaking engagements in Russia.
In December 2015, a gala dinner was held in Moscow to honor the Russian television network Russia Today (RT). During the event, Putin was seated next to Flynn.
Reports about alleged contacts between Trump’s aides and Russian officials during last year’s presidential campaign coincided with accusations by US intelligence agencies that Moscow sought to boost Trump’s chances of defeating his presidential rival Hillary Clinton through computer hacking and propaganda.
Putin has on multiple occasions rejected allegations of Moscow’s meddling in the US election as fiction invented by Democrats in order to explain their loss.