Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says any claims that Moscow is staging cyberattacks to interfere in European elections are "dreamt-up."
Speaking at an annual news conference on January 17, Lavrov also said U.S. intelligence agencies that he said tried to prove President-elect Donald Trump had compromising links to Russia "have drawn a blank and should be fired, because they've done worthless work."
He described the former British spy who wrote a dossier on Trump's alleged links to Russia, including an account of an alleged episode with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel, as a charlatan.
U.S. intelligence agencies said earlier this month that they had concluded "with high confidence" that "Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election," and that "Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for...Trump" over his rival in the November 8 vote, Hillary Clinton.
Lavrov called the accusations of hacking by Russia ahead of European elections a "provocation" and said that Moscow did not feel obligated to prove them wrong because "there is presumption of innocence."
Lavrov also said that Moscow expected to engage in a dialogue with Trump's administration on issues related to strategic stability, including nuclear weapons, after the U.S. president-elect takes office.
Lavrov said that specific topics of discussion could include hypersonic weapons, the missile shield the United States is building in Europe, space weapons, and nuclear testing.
He said that Russia is ready to meet with Trump's administration for discussions on these topics after he takes office on January 20.
Lavrov said that Moscow did not interpret recent remarks by Trump as an offer to scrap sanctions imposed by the United States over Russia's actions in Ukraine and elsewhere in exchange for a nuclear-arms-reduction deal.
In an interview with The Times of London and German magazine Bild published on January 15, Trump said: "They have sanctions on Russia -- let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that's part of it."
Syria Summit Invitation
Lavrov also said at the news conference that he thought it is right to invite the incoming Trump administration to Syria peace talks scheduled for January 23 in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.
Lavrov also expressed hopes Russia and the United States can cooperate more effectively on Syria under Trump than they have during President Barack Obama's administration.
He said he hoped the Trump administration will attend the talks in Astana.
Trump transition-team members and Russian officials had made conflicting remarks about whether the United States was invited.
Lavrov said one of the main aims of the talks is to "consolidate" a Syrian cease-fire mandated by a deal backed by Russia and Turkey and announced on December 29.
The United States has largely been excluded from the recent Russian-Turkish diplomacy on Syria, where Moscow has backed President Bashar al-Assad's government throughout the six-year-old civil war.
With reporting by Reuters, TASS, AFP, and Interfax