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Russia Won't Discuss Crimea, Dismisses Report Of Contacts With Trump Team

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (file photo)
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says Moscow will not discuss the return of Crimea to Ukraine with the United States or any other country.

Dmitry Peskov spoke on February 15, a day after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that U.S. President Donald Trump has "made it very clear" that he expects Russia to "return Crimea" and reduce violence in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin spokesman referred to Crimea as Russian territory, saying that "Russia never discusses issues related to its territories with foreign partners, including the United States."

Russia seized control of Crimea in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegal by the United States and a total of 100 countries in the UN General Assembly.

Peskov said that Trump did not raise the issue of Crimea in his January 28 telephone conversation with Putin.

He also dismissed a February 14 report in the New York Times that cited current and former U.S. officials as saying members of Trump's campaign and other associates had contacts with Russian intelligence officials in the months before the November 2016 presidential election, claiming it was "not based on any facts."

"Let's not believe anonymous information," Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

The Kremlin spokesman also responded to U.S. media reports that cited U.S. officials as saying that Russia has deployed cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a 1987 pact between Moscow and Washington.

"Russia has been and remains committed to its international commitments, including to the treaty in question," Peskov said.

"Nobody has formally accused Russia of violating the treaty," he said.

More broadly, Peskov said that it is too early to talk about the "normalization" of ties between Russia and the United States as Trump's administration is still being built.

Trump has repeatedly said he hopes relations between the United States and Russia will improve during his administration.

Ties have been badly strained by rancor over issues including Russia's interference in Ukraine, its role in the war in Syria, and what U.S. intelligence agencies say was a hacking and propaganda campaign to meddle in the U.S. presidential election with the aim of undermining the United States, discrediting Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, and helping Trump.

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and Reuters
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