The Reuters news agency reports that a Russian government think tank run by Kremlin-appointed former intelligence officials developed a plan to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election last year.
The April 19 Reuters report cited three current and four former U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It said they described two confidential documents that were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) and acquired by U.S. intelligence officials.
One was a strategy paper, written in June 2016 and circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government, which the report said recommended the Kremlin conduct an online and broadcast media propaganda campaign encouraging U.S. voters to elect a president who would be softer on Russia than Barack Obama had been.
The second document, drafted in October, warned that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win. It said Russia should halt its pro-Trump propaganda and focus on efforts to undermine Clinton's potential presidency and the legitimacy of the U.S. electoral system by fomenting suspicions of voter fraud.
U.S. intelligence agencies released a report in January saying they assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" using computer hacks, leaks, and other methods to interfere in the election, and that Putin's government developed a clear preference for Donald Trump, who won the November 8 election.
Reuters cited the current and former officials as saying the RISS documents were central to the Obama administration's conclusion that Russia conducted a "fake news" campaign and launched cyberattacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton's campaign.
"Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map," the report quoted a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who was one of the sources, as saying.
Putin has denied that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said of the Reuters report: "I don't know anything about this, I can only say that seven anonymous sources are not worth one real one."
RISS Director Mikhail Fradkov said that what he called an "attempt to involve RISS" in allegations of meddling in the election was "unsuccessful in essence."
"It seems that in their conspiratorial consciousness the authors of this conceit did not weigh reality against their...fantasies," Fradkov said in statement on the institute's website.
Fradkov, who headed Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) from 2007 to October 2016 and served as Putin's prime minister in 2004-2007, became the director of RISS earlier this year.
The state-run Russian news agency TASS on April 19 quoted an unnamed RISS spokesperson as expressing the hope that requests for comment from Western media outlets were "a joke and nothing more."
With reporting by Reuters and TASS