- The Washington Times - Friday, December 2, 2016

A top Russian official accused Ukraine this week of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential race amid renewed discussions in Washington involving Moscow’s own election meddling.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters Wednesday that the Ukrainian government attempted to sabotage President-elect Donald Trump’s White House bid by linking his former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, to a pro-Russian political party funded by Ukrainian oligarchs.

“Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump’s election campaign headquarters by planting information according to which Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, allegedly accepted money from Ukrainian oligarchs,” she said at a press briefing, as translated on the Foreign Ministry’s website. “All of you have heard this remarkable story.”

Mr. Manafort resigned as the de facto chairman of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign in August after the New York Times reported that his consulting firm had earned millions of dollars by providing political advice to Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-loyal former Ukrainian president who fled for Moscow in 2014 upon being removed from power.

“The Ukrainian authorities’ attempt to play the victim is an old trick, which usually brings good dividends. It worked for years, and they decided to use it again,” Ms. Zakharova said Wednesday. “Of course, Kiev needs this new complication to draw public attention away from the growing political, economic and social crisis in the country.”

The Russian official’s claims emerged as lawmakers in Washington this week reiterated concerns over what the White House has described as a conscious effort by the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential race. A bipartisan group of nine senators wrote President Obama Wednesday, urging him to declassify unspecified details “concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. election,” and a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged leadership Thursday to hold a hearing on the matter.

The Obama administration announced in October that U.S. intelligence officials were confident the Kremlin had directed cyberattacks waged against organizations and individuals tied to the American political establishment with the intent of interfering in the election process. Mr. Trump has repeatedly disputed Russia’s purported role, however, notwithstanding being briefed on the topic by U.S. intelligence officials.

Representatives for Mr. Trump failed to address questions concerning the Russian Foreign Ministry’s comments during a press briefing Thursday, Politico reported.

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